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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

First inmate, several more correctional officers test positive for COVID-19

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media

An inmate and two more correctional officers in Delaware’s prison system have tested positive for COVID-19. 

This first positive test for an inmate is at Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna — the state’s largest prison. 

The patient is over the age of 60, Department of Correction (DOC) officials say, and was housed in a unit that was monitored with twice-daily temperature checks for the past week. He first presented with a fever Monday and was moved to the prison infirmary. Officials say he is receiving treatment in a negative pressure isolation room and his condition is stable at this time.

Officials say one other inmate from the patient’s housing unit has a fever and has a COVID-19 test pending.

Inmates from the housing unit where the COVID-19 patient lived are being moved to a vacant building across the compound which officials say allows for more physical separation. They will continue to be observed for symptoms. 

DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a statement Tuesday the Department has been preparing for an inmate to test positive and has implemented its treatment and containment plan.

“DOC has a strong track record of containing infectious diseases, and we will do the same with this coronavirus,” she said. 

Delaware’s prisons recently suspended all in-person programming in an attempt to prevent spread of the virus. 

They have also suspended non-emergency medical services, like dental care, elective procedures and behavioral healthcare, for inmates.


So far a total of six correctional officers have also tested positive for the virus. 

Three were assigned to James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. Three others were assigned to Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington— one in the Court and Transportation Unit.

Several contract healthcare workers have also tested positive. 


DOC spokesperson Jason Miller said in an email Tuesday morning that the positive COVID-19 test results among staff have "no operational impact" on the DOC, which has struggled with correctional officer vacancies. 


Miller said with the latest class of correctional officers graduated from academy late last month, less than 140 officer positions are currently vacant.  


"The DOC has continued to see the number of correctional officer overtime shifts drop over the past month, even as we have navigated our COVID-19 response," he said. 


But DOC has said officers who were in close contact with some that tested positive were advised to self-isolate. Those experiencing flu-like symptoms have also been directed to self-isolate.


Miller declined to specify how many correctional officers are out of commission due to exposure- or symptom-related self-isolation, saying DOC does not disclose information about staff who may be utilizing sick leave.


This story has been updated.



Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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