Less than 48 hours after an outbreak at the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton forced the provincial government to temporarily shut down the facility to be sanitized, correctional officers across the province are finally being provided with surgical and procedure masks to use at work.
Documents obtained by CityNews state that staff will “be provided with one surgical/procedure mask at the beginning of their shift and will immediately practice hand hygiene and don the mask.”
Correctional officers have been asking for appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for well over a month, and have been given only limited access to N95 masks and surgical masks. Up until last week, different policies were being applied at different institutions; with staff at some jails prohibited from wearing masks unless in “additional pre-caution” areas of jails, such as intake or isolation units.
There have been several cases of inmates and correctional officers testing positive for COVID19 dating back to mid-March. Most recently, 62 inmates and ten staff members tested positive at the Brampton jail, prompting its closure. According to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, as of April 22, 66 inmates and 12 staff across the province have tested positive for the coronavirus.
RELATED: Everything you need to know about coronavirus
- Coronavirus: Full coverage
- What you need to know today
- Live coverage of coronavirus news from Toronto reporters
At this point, inmates are only being provided with surgical masks or other protective gear on an as-needed basis, for example, when being admitted to facilities and leaving isolation and intake cells. As of early this month, every jail was expected to have makeshift intake and isolation units in place for new inmates and those experiencing symptoms of COVID19.
According to the internal memo directed to all staff, employees are expected to wear their surgical masks “for an extended period and reused for the entire shift,” although they can be replaced if “soiled, contaminated, moist or damaged.”
“We have also rolled out temperature checks for all staff, visitors, and inmates,” ministry spokesperson Kristy Denette said in a statement Wednesday.
This comes after staff at jails across the province engaged in work refusals surrounding a lack of PPE and screening measures.
Earlier this month, a shortage of thermometers delayed the screening of staff entering the Maplehurst Correctional Centre by about a week. Several sources tell CityNews staff at the Ontario Correctional Institute only started being screened before work last Thursday after three staff tested positive for the coronavirus and Peel Public Health declared an outbreak at the facility.
RELATED: Coronavirus maps
- Map of Ontario’s coronavirus assessment centres
- Coronavirus map: Tracking the pandemic across Canada and the world
- The coronavirus pandemic in Ontario, mapped