An inmate being held at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility tested positive for COVID-19 last week but the infection was discovered before the inmate was able to join the general population at the prison.
Al Cormier, facilities executive for the Vermont Department of Corrections, said he believed the inmate had been arrested as a fugitive from justice in the state of Florida because there was a warrant for him in Chittenden County.
“Any new intakes that we get are automatically quarantined for a 14-day period. We conduct testing on day seven of that quarantine period so this was standard testing as far as our quarantine protocol,” Cormier said.
While the inmate tested positive, he was asymptomatic and didn’t complain of being sick and hasn’t shown any visible symptoms.
Cormier said when an inmate tests positive and doesn’t need to be hospitalized, the inmate is placed in isolation. While Cormier acknowledged it may sound similar to quarantine, the staff use many more precautions when dealing with someone who is COVID positive and who is under isolation.
Contact tracing the inmate was completed within 12 hours, Cormier added.
On Friday, the state announced all staff and inmates at Marble Valley will be tested for COVID-19 on June 20 and June 29 in response to the inmate’s positive test.
In a statement, James Baker, interim commissioner for the Department of Corrections, said the risk of spreading COVID is growing as state agencies, courts and others begin to reopen.
“I’m thankful for the swift action by the Vermont Department of Health and Department of Corrections teams, and we are prepared to respond,” Baker said.
Marble Valley went through mass testing on May 28 when health department staff tested 117 inmates and 87 staff members. All tests were negative.
Cormier said he believed the inmate was brought by the U.S. Marshals Service from Florida to Vermont where the Chittenden County Sheriffs Department took over. He said those marshals, the sheriff’s deputies and anyone who had contact with the inmate at the Rutland jail were notified of the inmate’s positive test.
Cormier said he believed what happened shows Corrections’ protocols are working. The inmate was brought into the facility but had no contact with the general population before a period of quarantine. In that time, the inmate’s COVID testing was done and the disease was found before the inmate was released from quarantine.
“It’s proven that if COVID gets into our facilities, it’s coming from the outside. It’s not something that’s there just waiting to attach to somebody,” he said.
The situation inspired the corrections department to begin testing inmates as they arrive at a facility and not just at the end of the quarantine period.
Daily updates on the COVID-19 response in Vermont’s correctional facilities can be found at doc.vermont.gov/covid-19-information-page