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Dept. of Correction prepares to fight the flu and coronavirus this year

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media
Lt. Shyers demonstrates the fogger machine, which disinfects an entire room

The Department of Correction is trying to keep the flu season from exacerbating the danger of infection in First State prisons.


People haven’t had to worry about both COVID-19 and the flu until now. With flu season just beginning, there are concerns people won’t even know if symptoms are the flu or Coronavirus.


That worry is even greater in a confined space like a prison.


But Delaware Department of Correction commissioner Claire DeMatteis says her department is more prepared for flu season than ever.


“We have a track record of being able to contain infectious diseases whether it’s in past years like the flu or Hepatitis A." said DeMatteis. "And now we’ve gained so much more knowledge and expertise dealing with COVID that this is part of running a correctional facility now.”


Delaware’s prisons - much like the rest of the state - have seen significant changes since COVID-19 arrived. There are testing systems in place, along with many more disinfection protocols.  And the use of masks and other PPE is common.


Now, as the flu season arrives, DOC wants to prevent superinfections, where someone gets sick with the flu and contracts COVID-19, or vice versa.  Getting both diseases can be a lot more dangerous.


DeMatteis says the department is using lessons learned from managing the pandemic.


“Going forward, the tracing, the testing, the isolating, the quarantining procedures we’ve established for COVID will carry this department forward as we deal with whether it’s the flu or other infectious diseases,” DeMatteis said Monday.


DeMatteis says the state has not dealt with a major flu outbreak in the past 3 seasons, and hopes some protocols already in place for COVID will help keep the flu at bay this year.


Back in 2016, there was a spike in flu cases at the Howard R. Young correctional facility in Wilmington, but DeMatteis says similar situations have been avoided the past three years. 


She adds one goal is to increase the amount of people, prisoners and correctional officers, that get vaccinated for the flu.  DOC wants at least 60 percent of guards and inmates vaccinated this season, and they’re giving out incentives to encourage people to get a flu shot.

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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