Dept. of Corrections reports outbreak at Deerfield

Published 7:13 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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As of Tuesday, Southampton County had 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but that figure may soon spike due to an outbreak at the Deerfield Correctional Center in Capron.

The Virginia Department of Health is tracking six outbreaks in its Western Tidewater District, which includes Southampton County, Isle of Wight County and the cities of Franklin and Suffolk. Only one is reported to be at a correctional facility, with the other five at long-term care facilities.

The Tidewater News had reported in its Sunday, April 12 edition that earlier that week, one employee at Deerfield had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections, there are now a total of four confirmed cases at Deerfield — three staff members and one inmate.

According to Dr. Todd Wagner, director of the Western Tidewater Health District, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the term “outbreak” to mean on occurrence of more cases of am disease than would normally be expected in a specific place or group of people over a given period of time. For correctional facilities, the VDH generally defines an outbreak to mean a total of two or more offenders and/or staff with confirmed cases, he said.

VDH informed me Saturday that they’ll be testing 1,400 folks at Deerfield Correctional Center, which could potentially translate into a significant increase in the reported number of cases in Southampton County later this week,” said County Administrator Mike Johnson.

When asked if the county had seen any COVID-19 cases in its local jail or jail farm, Johnson deferred to the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, whose spokesman, Maj. Camden Cobb, said that as of Tuesday no staff or inmates at either local facility had tested positive for COVID-19.

We are not requesting staff or inmates to be tested for COVID-19,” Cobb said. “If we have anyone that exhibits symptoms of COVID-19, we would request that they be tested at that time.”

According to a press release the Department of Corrections distributed on Monday, all offenders and staff at Deerfield — symptomatic or not — will be tested as part of a the Department of Corrections’ statewide initiative to ramp up testing at its facilities. The testing will be conducted in partnership with the VDH, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia and the state’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services.

Getting ahead of cases by testing offenders who aren’t showing symptoms will likely cause the VADOC offender case numbers to increase significantly, just as in the community, where an increase in testing results in more positives,” the press release states. “This increase in testing will give the VADOC a better picture of what is happening at each of Virginia’s correctional facilities will allow us to reduce the spread of the virus.”

Deerfield, which has a large population of geriatric and at-risk offenders, is following the guidelines of the CDC for long-term care facilities in its assisted living unit and its infirmary, the VADOC assures. Additionally, all VADOC facilities are following the VADOC’s pandemic sanitation plan, with offenders and staff being required to wear personal protective equipment at all times, including medical-grade PPE such as N-95 masks when appropriate.

As of Monday, 434 incarcerated offenders statewide had been tested for COVID-19. Of these, 116 offenders have confirmed COVID-19 cases. Fifty staff members statewide also have confirmed COVID-19 cases.