The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is testing every inmate who leaves their facilities for COVID-19, as well as those who have symptoms.
Officials said they started testing about two weeks ago, and to date only two inmates have tested positive. The agency reports they released between 125 and 150 inmates each week.
Jessica Brown, Chief of Strategic Engagement, said one of those inmates was identified at the time of his release.
The pandemic plan is to have DOC notify health department staff, and then have the former inmate follow-up with those officials on the outside.
While those getting out are being tested, those on the inside are also on guard.
Like many of us, they too are simply trying to prevent COVID from crawling into their cellblocks by keeping an eye out for symptoms.
“Test those inmates who show some type of symptom that COVID-19 would present such as coughing, fever, those kinds of things,” said Brown. “I believe we have been very successful, compared to other department of corrections throughout the United States.”
She said staff cannot be required to submit to testing, but they are also screened.
“They have to fill out a sheet of paper that asks them some basic questions. Do you have a cough? Are you running a fever? If they check the yes box to any of those, and they have a fever over 100.4 degrees, we ask them to go home and contact their medical provider,” Brown said.
ODOC reports they have had 9 staff who have tested positive so far.
To keep themselves and others safe, a group of inmates got together, and now their charity has expanded beyond the barbed wire of their incarceration.
“What we have been doing, what our inmates have been doing, is sewing a lot of these face masks for themselves throughout the system, as well as for staff,” Brown said. “Now, we have enough on hand that we are starting to donate those to other state agencies.”
Should DOC have more positive cases, there is a pandemic plan for that too.
“It shows in each facility, where we would have isolation cells, just in case we need to isolate someone, or quarantine them,” said Brown.
If an inmate were to test positive, DOC said the prisoner would have to be asymptomatic for 14 days before they could return to the general population.
DOC would also analyze who the sick person was around and quarantine any other inmate who poses a risk.