Two Saskatoon corrections officers test positive for COVID-19: union
Published Friday, March 27, 2020 1:16PM CST Last Updated Saturday, March 28, 2020 10:24AM CST
SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) says two Saskatoon corrections officers have tested positive for COVID-19.
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"We have been asking the Government for a plan for our corrections officers since the pandemic first broke," SGEU president Bob Bymoen said in a news release Friday.
"These people are working under the toughest circumstances and are worried."
Overcrowding and close confinement are creating challenges for corrections workers during the pandemic, the union said.
SGEU, the union representing correctional officers says the union doesn’t know how the officers contracted the virus, however added that one of the officers felt symptoms after coming home from work.
“With the overcrowding and the dense population that lives inside these centers and the contact, it’s almost impossible to avoid and they are at high risk,” said Bob Bymoen, the president of SGEU.
Bymoen added that officers who work with the correctional facility are concerned the virus could affect those closest to them.
“They are concerned about they keep their families safe and how to keep the community safe since they are working in these centers and then have to go home, and I know the government is working on that and I'm looking for answers,” said Bymoen.
Officers at the correctional facility have been provided protective gear such as masks and gloves, and more have been ordered as a precaution according to corrections representative Noel Busse.
Bymoen said the province should increase testing of inmates and staff, provide gloves and masks to workers in jails and courts and communicate more with staff and inmates during the pandemic.
In an emailed statement, the province said two staff at Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre have tested positive for the virus and said they are self-isolating at home.
"Corrections is working with public health authorities to determine who these individuals might have come into contact with within the correctional facility and what measures need to be taken as a result," the province said in the statement.
According to the province, steps are also being taken to further seperate inmates and staff, restrict the movement of inmates in facilities and to ensure corrections staff recieve priority for COVID-19 testing.
A day before the province's first presumptive COVID-19 case was announced, the correctional centre enacted precautionary infection control measures after an offender said he came into contact with someone infected with the virus.
The province says no inmates anywhere in the province are among Saskatchewan's confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, one unit at the city's correctional centre is under quarantine as a "precautionary measure for what is believed to be a non-COVID-19 illness."
The union representing Legal Aid lawyers and staff in Saskatchewan has asked both levels of government to consider releasing as many low-risk, non-violent inmates as possible from jails and prisons to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As of now, no offenders in provincial correctional facilities have tested positive for covid-19.
One unit at the Saskatoon correctional is under quarantine for what's being called a precautionary measure over what's believed to be a non COVID-19 illness.