NEWPORT, Vt. – The Vermont Department of Corrections reported 21 additional COVID-19 cases at Northern State Correctional Facility on Monday.
It brings the total active case count to 25 among inmates and 7 among staff members. The facility is on full lockdown pending the results of a facility-wide outbreak testing, which took place on Monday.
“We’re doing everything in our power, just like we have since the beginning of the pandemic, to make sure we have medical staff, supplies, expertise on the ground to provide care to the individuals,” said DOC Commissioner Jim Baker.
17 of the 21 cases are among inmates in the same unit where a COVID-positive staff member worked, and the space is now being used as a surge unit for patients.
It marks the largest outbreak since March, when over 100 people tested positive at NCSF.
“The facility is very difficult to isolate the incarcerated because of the way it’s set up,” Baker said. “Once it starts, you’re really challenged until it shows up in testing to realize what you’ve got going.”
Since Thursday, masks have once again become mandatory across all of Vermont’s correctional facilities, 5 of which are currently dealing with at least one active case.
Baker said 15 of the 25 inmates who have tested positive at NCSF are vaccinated, and nobody is showing any signs of serious illness.
A vaccine mandate for correctional employees goes into effect Wednesday, but they can opt out in favor of twice-a-week COVID testing.
“How it got into the facility will be our priority so we can figure out better mitigation strategies,” Baker said.
With the prison currently on full lockdown, the conversation about inmates’ mental health during isolation has also resurfaced.
“That was part of the reason I asked our medical director to go there today,” Baker said. “We are working with our medical team to make sure our contractor is providing that mental health support.”
Families and friends of incarcerated individuals are encouraged to reach out to the Vermont DOC Office of Constituency Services with questions.