The COVID-19 outbreak at the Sarnia Jail has exploded.
Thirteen inmates at the jail have now tested positive for the virus – that’s up nine from yesterday. One security guard has also tested positive.
Those numbers coming from Lambton Public Health Wednesday.
It comes after the head of the union representing correctional workers in Sarnia said Tuesday it is impossible to stop COVID-19 from coming into the jail.
The jail recorded its first case of COVID-19 in October. There was another in December. There were several more in January.
Joel Bissonnette of OPSEU Local 128 who is also a correctional officer at the jail, says staff are in a good position to continue doing their jobs while maintaining safety.
Early in the pandemic, correctional officers voiced concern about the lack of personal protective equipment to use inside the facility. “Any issues we did have around PPE were resolved early. Our management and union have been working together the entire time to help manage this,” he says. “We haven’t had any issues around PPE since the very beginning.”
“We’re committed to everyone’s health and safety in that building, all staff and inmates in our care. We’re working with public health on how to best manage this,” Bissonnette says. “Even outside of the outbreak we have screening in place for all staff and visitors that come to the building.”
“We’re doing our best to prevent it from happening, but when an outbreak does happen it’s no one’s fault inside. It’s impossible to stop this 100 per cent,” he says.
Bissonnette commended his fellow union members for their handling of the situation. “I’m proud of all the staff for coming to work everyday and doing their jobs. Because when an outbreak happens, we’re all human, we all have our own anxieties and fears about this, and we all have our loved ones who are vulnerable,” he says.
“Despite that everyone’s still coming into work and showing up and doing their best to help manage this.”
Bissonnette says although COVID has the spotlight now, other issues in the correctional world haven’t gone away. “The opioid crisis hasn’t gone anywhere, and fentanyl and contraband coming into institutions is still a concern,” he says. “This is just one more concern on top of everything else that we already deal with.”
The cases at the Sarnia jail were the only new cases reported in Lambton. The outbreak there is one of eight in Lambton right now.
Fifty one people are ill with COVID-19 Wednesday, while 1792 have recovered.
In Ontario, another 1,072 cases of COVID-19 were reported today. There were 41 new deaths including 15 in long term care. There were over 52,000 tests completed with 2.5 per cent of them found to be positive.