Delawareans can soon visit loved ones in Department of Correction facilities again. The change comes amid lower levels of coronavirus infection in the prisons.
The Department of Correction (DOC) reports just three active COVID cases among individuals incarcerated in its facilities as of Tuesday. They are all in Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington.
Cases are down from a peak of 385 active cases at one time in December, according to DOC officials. In total close to 2,000 prisoners and detainees have recovered from the virus, and 13 have died.
In-person visitation restarts March 16, after being suspended since November. DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis says she feels it is safer now.
“We know that contact with loved ones at any time when you’re incarcerated is important,” DeMatteis said. “But particularly during these really tough economic times, we think it’s important that we restart visitation as soon as it is safe, and we feel we’re at that point.”
DeMatteis says the level of community spread of the virus also factored into the decision.
“When we temporarily halted visitation in mid-November, it was because of significantly escalating cases in the community,” she said. “We feared that that is one way that COVID comes into our prisons—whether it’s people coming in not knowing that they’re carriers, [or] certainly it’s possible with officers.”
Registration for in-person visits opens Monday, March 8.
As of Friday morning, 1,056 DOC staff members and 137 inmates had received at least one dose of the vaccine under the state’s distribution phase 1B. DeMatteis says vaccine supply is currently the limiting factor in phase 1B DOC vaccinations. The rest of the inmate population will become eligible in phase IC.