COVID-19 cases rise to 142 at Saskatoon jail, daily temperature checks added for staff: union
SASKATOON -- The union representing workers at Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre (SPCC) says staff are now undergoing daily temperature checks as the number of cases at the jail has risen to 142.
As of Monday evening, 116 inmates and 26 workers have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to Glenn Billingsley, labour relations officer with Saskatchewan Government Employees' Union (SGEU).
CTV News also spoke to Jyl, a corrections office at the Saskatoon jail. CTV News has agreed to withhold Jyl's last name due to the nature of her work.
She also serves as a SGEU shop steward at the facility. The temperature checks were put in place Friday as an additional precautionary measure, Jyl said.
"Well you know to be honest with you, when you take a job like this, you always know that there's a certain amount of risk that you're facing day to day," Jyl said.
"What you never planned for is taking that risk home to your family."
Based on SGEU numbers, there are around 350 people employed at the correctional centre.
So far 170 staff members have been tested and there are plans to test more workers, according to SGEU.
"We're doing what we can do, but that doesn't just include corrections officers that also includes our maintenance staff, our kitchen staff, our chapels, and so on."
Jyl said the union is pushing for outside accommodations for workers who show symptoms to protect their families from COVID-19. In a statement the ministry said it had informal discussions with the union around the issue of accommodations and are exploring what options may be available. No decision have been made at this time, the ministry said.
Jyl said staff are trying to keep inmates as informed as they can.
"Sometimes they're wanting the information a little quicker than we can give it to them and we don't want to give them any misinformation. So sometimes there's a little bit of a time restraint on it," Jyl said.
According to SPCC inmates who spoke with CTV News Monday morning, a handful of inmates are still engaged in a hunger strike. In an emailed statement sent late Monday a spokesperson with the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety said all inmates were accepting meals.
The strike began on Friday over the corrections ministry's approach to managing the facility during the current surge in cases.
The inmates said they have not been tested for COVID-19 since early last week.
One of the inmates who called on Monday, Theron Lee Fox, said he is still waiting to be tested again after it was learned a man who slept on the bunk below him tested positive for COVID-19.
"Honestly feel like I'm not gonna be able to see my kids again," Fox told CTV News during an interview Friday afternoon.
The man remained in the unit for hours after his status was known, according to multiple inmates who spoke with CTV News.
The ministry said offenders who are symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19 will continue to be isolated and the ministry will work with public health officials to ensure that staff and offenders receive appropriate care.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Christine Tell said the ministry would be undertaking "continuous, ongoing testing of all offenders at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre for the foreseeable future."
--With files from Shawn Churchill