COVID-19 invades local prison

Published 1:57 pm Monday, April 20, 2020

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WINTON – Hertford County’s reported cases of COVID-19 more than doubled over the past weekend following an outbreak at Rivers Correctional Institution.

According to information provided by Albemarle Regional Health Services (ARHS), four staff members and one inmate at Rivers Correctional Institution have tested positive for the virus. They account for five of the six active cases of COVID-19 in Hertford County. Of the county’s nine total cases, two are listed as “recovered” while the other case ended in death.

Rivers Correctional is a privately-owned facility, operated by the GEO Group, that operates under a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Meanwhile, the outbreak at Three Rivers Health & Rehab in Windsor, as reported in Saturday’s News-Herald, remains at three cases (two patients and one staff member), according to ARHS.

Bertie has 25 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday. Ten of those are active; 14 have recovered; and there has been one death.

At their scheduled meeting on Monday evening, the Bertie Board of Commissioners received an update about the number of cases. At that time, there were no additional confirmed cases at Three Rivers Health & Rehab.

ARHS defined an outbreak as two or more cases in a facility. When an outbreak is identified, additional contact tracing and testing is required in order to manage exposures and ensure proper steps are taken to protect both staff and residents. This often times identifies additional cases more quickly, including asymptomatic cases.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health has prioritized testing in congregate care facilities in order to proactively manage the situation in order to quickly mobilize resources and actions to limit additional spread.

“As public health continues to actively investigate these cases, and as we identify cases in congregate care facilities and as testing becomes more widely available, we expect our positive lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 to increase,” said ARHS Health Director R. Battle Betts, Jr. “Based on statewide, regional, and local trends, we do anticipate that we are slightly behind other areas and that we will continue to see a rise in cases over the next couple of weeks which means it is important for us all to continue to take all precautions to mitigate the spread including staying at home, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene and sanitation.”

ARHS also reported an outbreak in Pasquotank County where there are 32 confirmed cases (18 active and 14 recovered). That outbreak, they said, resulted from inmates being transferred from the Neuse Correctional Institution to the Pasquotank Correctional Institution prior to April 7.

According to published news reports earlier on Monday, a mass testing operation of the approximately 250 employees and 700 offenders at Neuse Correctional Institution has revealed a total of 13 staff and more than 330 offenders are infected with virus. Ninety-eight percent of those are asymptomatic and another 197 test results are pending.

Agencies affiliated with outbreaks in Pasquotank, Bertie, and Hertford counties are all working closely with ARHS communicable disease staff and are following local and state guidance. Individuals are isolated and their symptoms are being monitored. Additional testing will be provided as needed.

On Tuesday morning, ARHS reported the death of a COVID-19 patient in Pasquotank County. The individual, who was over the age of 65, succumbed to complications associated with the virus.

Lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases across the Albemarle Regional Health Services region also include:

Perquimans County – 8 cases – 6 active and 2 recovered;

Camden County – 0 cases;

Chowan County – 6 cases – 4 active and 2 recovered;

Currituck County – 2 cases – 0 active and 2 recovered; and

Gates County – 4 cases – 0 active and 4 recovered.

As of 11 a.m. on Tuesday (April 21), the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 6,971 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 213 deaths statewide. These numbers reflect over 1,000 more lab confirmed cases from Friday, April 17 (5,859 reported at that time) and 61 additional deaths.

“Mitigation strategies aimed to slow the spread of COVID-19 which include social distancing, staying home when you are sick, and hand washing will continue to work in concert with containment strategies. These strategies aim to minimize the risk of transmission from infected to non-infected individuals in order to stop the outbreak,” stated Betts.

Public health interventions are and will continue to be an important tool to reduce transmission and prevent the spread of COVID-19. ARHS is continuing to ask its community citizens to be vigilant in practicing preventive and safety measures that will help prevent the spread of the virus and prevent the spread of COVID-19. These precautions include:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Practice social distancing; stay at least six feet away from others, avoid unnecessary travel, avoid handshakes, hugs and other close contact.

ARHS encourages the community to visit the following websites for credible information:

Albemarle Regional Health Services – or call 252-338-WELL

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services –

Center for Disease Control –


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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