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Nevada signs $10 million contract to improve COVID testing in prisons, vet homes

COVID-19 infections graphic
COVID-19 infections graphic(MGN)
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:22 PM PST
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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - The state of Nevada has signed a $10 million contract to do COVID-19 testing at the state’s correctional facilities.

The contract with Quest Diagnostics will reduce turnaround time to get test results and reduce testing burden at the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, where Nevada Department of Corrections testing currently accounts for 26 percent of the total number of tests.

The action comes as two correctional facilities struggle with COVID-19 outbreaks.

The state of Nevada reports 525 confirmed cases at the Warm Springs Correctional Facility in Carson City. Eighty-eight percent of inmates have been infected as have 38 percent of the staff.

At the Humboldt Conservation Camp near Winnemucca, 83 percent of the inmates and 31 percent of the staff have been infected, according to tests this week.

At the state’s two veterans homes, in Sparks and Boulder City, 13 percent of patients have been infected. There have been three deaths. Seventeen percent of the staff has been infected.

At Warm Springs, the prison remains on a lockdown. Three were treated at a hospital and discharged. One remains on oxygen.

At Warm Springs, each unit rotates for a 30-minute shower and phone break, giving inmates an average of three to four chances to call home and shower each week. Additionally, offenders get up to an hour outside as NDOC works to balance safety while reducing the spread of the virus and maintaining as many privileges as possible.

The Northern Nevada Correctional Center provides meals. Inmates get a hot breakfast and dinner and a sack lunch.

At NNCC 1 percent of the inmates and 5 percent of the staff have tested positive. Statewide, 6 percent of inmates and 13 percent of prison staff have been infected. The state says one study shows Nevada has one of the nation’s lower rate of infections.

The contract with Quest covers 100,000 molecular tests. Quest will deliver the tests to the facilities and will pick them up and process the tests.

The Nevada Department of Corrections is taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, including getting N95 masks for staff with direct contact with inmates.

Other precautions include:

  • All NDOC offenders are screened for COVID-19-like symptoms on a regular basis and are tested when clinically indicated. Any NDOC offenders who display any flu-like symptoms will be immediately tested for COVID-19 and treated as though they are positive and isolated.
  • NDOC offenders at all facilities are offered hand sanitizer and cleaning products at request.
  • All common areas frequented by offenders are sanitized at a minimum of every 2 hours and as needed.
  • NDOC offenders will be evaluated by a facility medical provider if they are symptomatic and may be transferred to a negative airflow cell if available and/or a higher level of care if indicated. NDOC offenders will be evaluated by a facility medical provider if symptomatic or if clinically indicated and may be transferred with a warden’s approval to a higher level of care.
  • Offenders who have been housed outside of NDOC for greater than 24 hours and are transferring into NDOC facilities will require a minimum 14-day quarantine and a COVID-19 swab test on day 7 after their transfer or sooner if they develop any symptoms. For the offender to return to general population they will require a minimum 14-day quarantine with 72 hours free of symptoms with a negative COVID-19 test result.
  • All NDOC employees are screened for symptoms, and symptoms of others in their homes before being allowed into any institution or work facility.
  • Employees are tested for COVID-19 every two weeks.
  • All employee temperatures are taken and recorded.
  • No contractors will be allowed to enter the facilities unless there is an urgent need approved by the facility warden.
  • Supervisors are required to ensure that all NDOC employees and contractors always wear face masks while on NDOC property while maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet from others.
  • NDOC employees will be tested for COVID-19 by NDOC medical staff prior to being sent home. The quarantine time is a minimum of 10 days with at least 72 hours free of any symptoms prior to the employee being allowed to return to work.

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