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Three Vancouver area prisons report 66 active COVID-19 cases

Surrey, Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge facilities hit hard by virus
The North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam is among three Lower Mainland prisons with active cases of COVID-19 among inmates and staff. File photo Tri-City News.

Prisons in Surrey, Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge are reporting a combined total of 66 active COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff, according to the Ministry of Health.

Data from the ministry provided to Glacier Media Saturday showed infections among 35 inmates and one staff at the Surrey Pretrial Centre, 21 inmates and one staff at North Fraser Pretrial in Port Coquitlam and seven inmates and one staff at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge.

The data included cases unrelated to the outbreaks, with five staff at North Fraser and three inmates at Surrey Pretrial testing positive for the virus, making for a grand total of 74 active cases connected to the three facilities.

The ministry also said in an email that one inmate and one staff member at Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver had tested positive for the virus. No further updates on cases in the province were provided by the ministry before this story was posted Monday.

The number of active cases when compared to total number of infections reported since the pandemic was declared in March 2020 – 36 inmates, 35 staff as of Jan. 18 this year – suggests the virus has renewed its velocity in B.C.’s 10 provincially run prisons.

The data doesn’t include the number of cases reported in B.C.’s eight federal institutions.

Correctional Service Canada’s most recent update on number of inmate cases was posted to its website Jan. 21 and showed no active cases in B.C.’s federal prisons.

But cases reported since the pandemic was declared totalled 125, with 120 at Mission Institution, four at Fraser Valley Institution for Women and one at Matsqui Institution. One inmate died last year at Mission.

The data doesn’t include infection rates for staff but Correctional Service Canada said in an email to Glacier Media Jan. 21 that there were 35 active cases among staff across the country. The agency didn’t indicate which prisons were affected.

Emails and documents the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General provided to Glacier Media last week said BC Corrections had taken several steps to help prevent transmission of the virus among inmates and staff.

That included physical distancing, limiting movement of inmates between prisons, ongoing monitoring of inmates for COVID-19 symptoms and banning in-person visits, unless for urgent or exceptional circumstances.

The inmate population has also been reduced since March 2020, decreasing from approximately 2,200 to a current daily count of 1,550. The ministry said the decrease relates to the courts prioritizing trials and sentencing, individuals completing existing sentences and fewer people taken into custody.

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