CHESAPEAKE, Va. - A specialized COVID unit has opened at the Chesapeake Correctional Center.
Sheriff Jim O'Sullivan opened the unit after receiving the final results from facility-wide COVID-19 testing.
In partnership with the Chesapeake Health Department and the Virginia Department of Health, the Chesapeake Sheriff's Office tested 1,219 people (859 inmates and 360 correctional staff members and sworn court personnel) on November 21. The results of this facility-wide sweep showed 140 more inmates tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of positive inmate COVID-19 cases to 232.
Officials say the correctional center's average daily inmate population is about 985. After these latest results, the infection rate is at about 23%.
Four deputies also tested positive for the virus.
Some of the inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 have already been moved into the specialized unit, which is in a building that is separated from the main facility. Correctional center officials say this move both limits the risk of exposure to the rest of the facility and allows staff to provide specialized care to anyone who has tested positive for the virus.
In April, Sheriff O'Sullivan received special permission from the Virginia Department of Corrections to convert an auxiliary building behind the correctional center into a COVID unit in the case of an outbreak.
“From the beginning, we have been hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” said Sheriff O’Sullivan. “This is our first outbreak. Our COVID-unit is now open and staffed. With the help of many city and state agencies, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, we are safely providing the best possible medical care.”
Below are some of the additional steps the facility has taken to protect the health and security of people in custody and correctional center employees:
- Ramped Up Cleaning Efforts: Increased sanitation and cleaning rounds in all CSO buildings. Officials have stocked up on cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, PPE, etc.
- Detailed Screening for Inmates and Employees: All offenders undergo medical screening when they are booked into the facility. New inmates are quarantined for 14 days before joining the general population. All employees undergo a temperature and symptom check when they report to work. Employees who have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive are ordered to quarantine at home and are quickly scheduled for COVID-19 testing.
- Mask Mandate: All employees and inmates have been issued face masks. Employees are required to wear masks during their shifts. Inmates are required to wear masks when outside of their housing unit. Inmates are educated about the virus and CDC recommendations.
- Limiting Exposure: The Chesapeake Correctional Center is currently closed to the public. Inmate programs like the Weekender Program and most Work Force programs are suspended. Officials are working with the courts and local jurisdictions to maximize video arraignments and hearings. There is no in-person visitation; all visits are conducted digitally.