NDCS facility takes steps to protect COVID positive inmates

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Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 2:28 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Steps have been taken to isolate 33 inmates at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center, who have recently tested positive for COVID-19. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services announced that two inmates died due to COVID-19 on Thursday after being hospitalized.

The DEC averages about 418 inmates, which means 7.9% are currently positive with COVID.

At this time, visitation and volunteer activities have been suspended to further protect the health of inmates, staff members and others who might enter that facility.

“As we did previously, we have placed those individuals in medical isolation,” said Director Scott R. Frakes of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. “They are being checked regularly by health care staff. Testing is available to anyone who suspects they may have symptoms.”

Dir. Frakes said that experience gained during the previous management of the coronavirus has been beneficial.

“Before, when cases increased in the community, we experienced a corresponding increase in our facilities,” noted Dir. Frakes. “It is not a surprise that we have an uptick in cases now, especially at DEC which serves as the intake facility for all male inmates who are new admits or returning to us from the community.”

NDCS has asked county jails to hold off on sending new commits if possible, to help stem a potential rise in cases.

According to NDCS statistics, DEC is the most overcrowded facility in its system, with two-and-a-half as many inmates as it was designed for.” DEC is currently at 208% of its operational capacity.

“We appreciate that cooperation. Obviously, it is difficult for the jails to hold people for an indefinite length of time. Every little bit helps us as we get the population through this latest outbreak,” said Frakes.

Two other facilities, the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women and Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, have small numbers of COVID-19 cases. Vaccines continue to be offered to all inmates and any staff members who wish to be inoculated against COVID-19.

“The decision to be vaccinated is an individual one. We continue to communicate that offer,” said Dir. Frakes. “We are permitting the wearing of masks on a voluntary basis and are providing bars of soap to inmates as well as putting extra focus on disinfecting spaces where people live and congregate. Being proactive served us well before. We will continue to use those strategies to get us through this latest wave.”

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