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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.

Testing shows COVID-19 outbreak grows at Sussex County prison

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Department of Correction now has a better idea of how widespread the COVID-19 outbreak is at at the Sussex Correctional Institution.


DOC says all 973 inmates at the facility have been tested for the virus.  About a third – 303 - are positive, with 20 test results still pending. Officials say another 17 inmates at Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover tested positive. Those cases can be traced to 3 inmates transferred from Sussex Correctional to Morris.

90% of the 320 inmate cases are asymptomatic. 32 are showing symptoms, with four in stable condition at area hospitals.  None are on a ventilator.


21 officers at Sussex Correctional have also tested positive and 18 more are self-quarantining while waiting for COVID-19 test results.  So far, no officers at Morris Community Corrections Center have tested positive.


“This infectious disease predominately hit three open dormitory-style housing units at SCI. While the number of inmates who have tested positive at SCI is a big number, 90% of the inmates have no symptoms. Our proactive testing is working to identify inmates and officers who may be silent spreaders of the virus,” DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a statement. "We have isolated the inmates with the illness in our COVID-19 Treatment Centers where they are receiving round-the-clock monitoring and care by medical professionals.


The Department of Correction has had a COVID-19 Treatment Center at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna sinc an outbreak there thi spring.  It opened a similar center at Sussex Corrrectional last week. DOC says 87 COVID-positive inmates were transferred to the center at Vaughn Correctional Center and 2 are being treated in Vaughn's infirmary.   227 inmats are in the Sussex Correctional COVID-19 Treatment Center.

And while there are no cases reported at any other facilities, DOC has decided to temporarily suspend visitation statewide effective midnight on Tuesday, July 14 to help prevent further spread.  The state had just resumed in-person visitation for inmates in state prisons starting at the end of June.

DOC has also transferred about three-dozen other Sussex Correctional inmates who tested COVID-negative and are either over 60 years old or have underlying health issues to a vacant building at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna to limit their possible exposure. 

The department has also handed out more than 4,300 face masks to every inmate at all Level V prison and Level IV work release and probation facilities statewide.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.