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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.

COVID-19 outbreak in Sussex prison doubles in two days, may have spread to another facility

Delaware Public Media

Cases of COVID-19 among inmates at the Sussex Correctional Institution have more than doubled in just a few days.


Between July 6th to the 8th, cases of COVID-19 among inmates at Sussex Correctional jumped from 58 to 119. And another 3 cases at Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover are believed to be connected to that outbreak. 

Statewide - 22 DOC staff and 3 healthcare workers are also currently infected.

DOC is in the process of testing all 900 inmates at Sussex Correctional. Commissioner Claire DeMatteis explains why that’s a priority.

“Of all of the positive cases that we have - and we’re finding these positive cases on purpose, we want to find those that are testing positive but are asymptomatic, that have no symptoms; who may become silent spreaders throughout the institution. So that’s why we’re so aggressively testing.”

Only a quarter of inmates are actually showing symptoms of the virus, making it harder to prevent spread throughout the prison without mass testing.

DeMatteis says she is not worried about spread to other facilities.

“Any inmate that goes from one facility to another is automatically quarantined for 14 days. And that has been the case from our protocols from the very beginning of this in early March.”

She adds DOC would not have caught the illness in these inmates without its strict policies in place.

All inmates at Sussex Correctional have been provided face masks and are being tested for the virus.  

Testing is prioritizing inmates over 60 or with underlying conditions. And three dozen inmates over 60 or with underlying conditions that already tested negative are moving to vacant housing at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. Vaughn was the site of a previous prison outbreak this year involving at least 124 inmates.

DeMatteis says the Department of Correction is doing what they can to stop the spread of the disease - such as quarantining new inmates, providing face masks, transitioning programs to a video format, and disinfecting common areas.

They set up a COVID-19 Treatment facility at the Sussex Correctional Institution - similar to one created at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna when it faced an outbreak earlier this year.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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