The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is working to quell multiple outbreaks of the coronavirus and Scott Crow said there could be more in the future.
“I believe that outbreaks will continue, simply because we continue to see outbreaks in the public,” Crow, the DOC director said. “I believe corrections is no different.”
According to the DOC COVID-19 dashboard, just over 200 inmates at Northeast Correctional Center in Vinita tested positive for the virus over the weekend, making it the fourth facility to become a hotspot.
Almost all of the inmates at NECC were asymptomatic when they tested positive, Crow said.
Since the start of the pandemic, four inmates have died after testing positive for COVID-19. The exact cause of those deaths is still under investigation.
“I stay up late at night trying to figure out ways to improve on what we’re currently doing because I take this personally,” said Crow, who was first appointed director by Gov. Stitt in June of 2019 and later confirmed by the legislature in May.
Outbreaks have occurred at Mabel Bassett and Eddie Warrior Correctional Centers.
As of Thursday night, more than 5,000 inmates were quarantined or in isolation.
Quarantined inmates are restricted from transferring between facilities, but social distancing is sometimes impossible. Crow said finding space to separate people is a challenge at state facilities.
“That’s one of our biggest struggles in corrections, is the social distancing idea,” he said.
Sandra King’s husband is an inmate at NECC. She said he was among the crowd that tested positive and is not showing symptoms.
“I don’t want it to be swept under the rug, King said. “I don’t want it to be, ‘well they’re inmates.’ They’re human and someone out there loves them.”