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Port Coquitlam jail outbreak leads to 26 cases of COVID-19

There is only one active case in an inmate at the Port Coquitlam jail.
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North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam - Tri-City News file photo

A COVID-19 outbreak at a Port Coquitlam jail has led to the infection of 22 inmates and four staff members, the Tri-City News has learned. 

As of Friday afternoon, a single active case was being monitored in an inmate at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam. The jail has been site to at least three outbreaks since the pandemic hit British Columbia.

A spokesperson for Fraser Health said the authority is working with BC Corrections and the Provincial Health Services Authority to manage the outbreak and complete contact tracing to contain the spread of the virus.

The Port Coquitlam facility is one of three across the Lower Mainland dealing with active COVID-19 outbreaks. Nearby in Maple Ridge, the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre has identified the virus in 25 individuals in custody and two staff members. But unlike the Port Coquitlam jail, there are still 14 inmates with active cases at the Maple Ridge facility.

Another outbreak at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre has led to test-positive COVID-19 cases in 38 inmates and one staff member, including one inmate who was hospitalized but has since returned to custody. The facility has no remaining active cases, according to a Fraser Health spokesperson.

INMATES GETTING VACCINATED

To date, about 60% of inmates have been vaccinated with at least a single dose, including 178 at North Fraser Pretrial Centre, 72 individuals in custody at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and 172 at Surrey Pretrial Services Centre.

COVID-19 vaccine has been offered to every inmate at the three prisons, with the exception of those who remain sick with the coronavirus, a practice mirroring that seen in long-term care facilities battling outbreaks. 

Because of the high turn over rate, a spokesperson for Fraser Health said it will continue to send vaccine outreach teams to the three sites.

Last year during the height of the spring wave, Corrections BC granted early release to dozens of inmates across the province in an effort to reduce the density of the prison population and stem the spread of the coronavirus inmates and staff.

Prisoners are considered a high-risk population as their often cramped living quarters can lead to the speedy transmission of the virus and underlying health issues mean many inmates could face serious symptoms should they become infected.

Most of those granted early release were serving intermittent sentences, according to the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, meaning they were to spend a succession of weekends locked up rather than serving their sentence all at once.