RICHMOND, Va.—There were still no known cases of COVID-19 among offenders in Virginia’s prisons as of March 12, and the Department of Corrections is doing what it can to keep it that way. Beginning this past weekend, state correctional facilities began using a questionnaire-based screening process for members of the public who are visiting offenders.
The Virginia DOC (VADOC) is asking visitors to state correctional facilities to use their best judgment and not visit if they are not feeling well. Additionally, visitors are asked to postpone their visit if they’ve traveled outside the country in the previous 14 days, had close contact with someone who has traveled outside the country within the last 14 days, or been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
On average, about 4,000 people visit Virginia offenders at VADOC facilities each weekend, including international visitors.
As a large public safety agency, the VADOC is accustomed to managing communicable diseases. We are carefully monitoring the COVID-19 situation, staying current with information and guidance provided by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
VADOC is developing COVID-19 guidelines based on the agency’s existing Ebola guidelines/protocols and input from the Virginia Department of Health. If an offender were to have a positive COVID-19 test, just like with the flu, VADOC would report that case to the Virginia Department of Health and follow their guidance. The affected offender’s facility would be locked down and visitation at that facility would be stopped.
VADOC has a screening protocol in place for offenders coming into state facilities from local jails. In addition to screening questionnaires for offenders and visitors, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the potential risk of exposure, the VADOC is requiring the completion of a screening questionnaire for volunteers and contractors.
VADOC is analyzing its pharmaceutical supply chain and taking inventory of supplies of personal protective equipment like masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns. The agency is centrally locating personal protective equipment in the eastern, central, and western regions of the state.
VADOC’s Infrastructure & Environmental Management Unit has provided detailed guidance to correctional facilities and other work locations regarding approved handwashing, sanitizing, and disinfectant products, and instructions for the proper use of those products to provide protection from COVID-19.
More information can be found on www.vadoc.virginia.gov.