Officials announce cluster of COVID-19 cases at Delaware prison

Empty jail cell

Medical experts say that jails and prisons should focus on reducing prison population in order to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

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Over a six-week period, no one held in a Delaware prison tested positive for COVID-19. That streak ended Friday, when the Department of Corrections announced that three people held at Sussex Correctional Institution had tested positive. Those cases led to additional measures, including twice-daily temperature checks for anyone living in the housing units with those who tested positive.

On Monday, Corrections Commissioner Claire DeMatteis announced 55 more people had tested positive at Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI). Of those, only 10 had shown symptoms of the virus.

“We are employing all of the tools at our disposal to get ahead of its potential spread,” DeMatteis said. “We are taking all necessary measures to prevent further spread of the illness.”

The department has been holding other patients in its custody at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. It has transferred 51 of the patients from SCI to Vaughn for treatment. Four others are being treated in the infirmary at SCI, and three are in stable condition at area hospitals.

All programming has been suspended at SCI for one week to restrict movement in the facility, and temporarily no new individuals are being accepted at SCI.

Seven men who were incarcerated have died since the pandemic started. Six of those had complications from serious chronic diseases, and all were held at Vaughn.

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