COVID-19 Coronavirus: What You Need to Know in Corrections


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Remember, simple preventive measures like proper hand washing are key to reducing the risk of outbreak.

Challenges you may face if the virus becomes widespread include:

  • Loss of essential services
  • Loss of infrastructure
  • Shortage of workers
  • Sudden increase in the number of patients
  • Need to relocate care to an alternate facility

Essential decisions about allocation of resources should be made at a system level. It may relieve stress to remind the team to follow your facility’s chain of command.

Here are some critical factors correctional leaders need to keep in mind to prepare for a possible outbreak:

  • Communications
    • All staff should have approximately the same answers. “Singing the same tune” will reassure staff, inmates and their families that the facility has prepared appropriately and is communicating well.
    • Appoint one point of contact for press inquiries and be ready if a news crew shows up at your facility.
    • Have a list of telephone contacts available to all staff: phone numbers for the chain of command, on-call physicians and nursing staff, local and state public health departments and off-site emergency/medical providers.
    • Make sure that all employees know what is expected of them in the event of an outbreak.
  • Your state and local health departments may not include you in their planning or communications. Make sure you are in touch. Also look for resources from:
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • The World Health Organization (WHO)
    • Local authorities such as hospitals, medical centers and health care systems
  • Personal Protective Equipment
    • If PPE is used, train all personnel on its proper use. Employees must be property fitted and trained for items such as masks.
    • Key protective items include gloves, masks and respirators (please understand uses and limitations of these), eye protectors, gowns, uniforms and shoe covers
  • Create or review your disease outbreak protocol/SOP. Follow your facility’s critical incident procedure to get started.
    • Identify staff responsible for planning and directing health care delivery
    • Calculate estimates of sick inmates based on your population – determine impact and disaster staging based on these figures.
    • Identify high- and low-priority health care functions as well as a facility-specific plan for health care delivery
    • Determine a plan for handling contact with individuals from outside the facility whose disease status is unknown.
    • Your plans should include:
      • Supplementing health care staff, if needed
      • Creating medical isolation areas or units
      • Ensuring supply of pharmacy and medical supplies in case normal supply sources are limited
      • Transporting patients for more advanced care.
    • Consider a clinical protocol addressing clinical guidelines for treatment of airborne pathogens or other highly contagious diseases
    • Review your plan for cleaning and disinfecting equipment and areas. Inventory the types of cleaning agents and make sure staff has up-to-date training on proper cleaning methods.