As two more state Department of Corrections employees tested positive for COVID-19, department director Charles Daniels is visiting corrections facilities across the state to speak with staff about the outbreak.
“We’re in this together,” Daniels said during a recent visit to High Desert State Prison near Indian Springs, which announced March 26 that one of its staff had tested positive for COVID-19. “We’re on the front lines. The community is counting on our leadership during this pandemic.”
Daniels spoke with correctional officers and support staff, watched Surface Sanitation Teams clean surfaces throughout the prison and toured the unit where the infected staff member had worked. Surface Sanitation Teams have been thoroughly cleaning surfaces at the prison with a 10% bleach solution as part of the department’s attempts to contain the virus.
“Our ongoing public health response was to detect and isolate both staff and offenders who displayed symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19,” Daniels said. “We further assessed our contingency plans and modified them to deal with the threat.”
High Desert’s warden, Calvin Johnson, who has been on the job less than a week, accompanied Daniels on his visit.
“It’s important for our staff to see the director at the facilities,” Johnson said. “It shows that he cares about the challenges our front-line staff face. It’s also a chance for us to show the protocols we’re taking to contain the spread of COVID-19.”
Those protocols, which are consistent with national and state health and human services guidance, include the employee self-quarantining at home, offenders isolated in their cells and medical staff checking both employees and inmates for signs of the virus.
The Department of Corrections has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing more intensive screening and precautionary measures based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies.
“I’m proud of the work our custody staff continue to do while executing contingency plans with discipline and professionalism,” said Harold Wickham, Nevada Department of Corrections deputy director of operations. “NDOC will continue to closely monitor the situation at all of our facilities and work closely with local and state public health officials to ensure the health and safety of staff and offenders.”
The first positive test in the department was at High Desert and reported April 2. This week, two new positive cases involve an employee at Ely State Prison and another at Casa Grande Transitional Housing in Las Vegas, department spokesman Scott Kelly told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“I extend my thoughts and empathy to those who have been impacted by COVID-19,” Daniels added. “This is a challenging time for all of us, and I’m impressed by our response at High Desert State Prison. Further, emergency operations centers have been activated at every institution. Our wardens are conducting separate town hall meetings with the offender population every Tuesday and Friday during each of our primary shifts.
“NDOC is a public safety agency committed to keeping our communities safe and will continue to man the line during this crisis.”