In an ongoing effort to provide the best defense against COVID-19, Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) is deploying Rapid Response Teams to facilities declared virus “hot spots.” Within 24 hours of this designation, the team meets with the facility warden and walks them through every step of the agency’s COVID-19 Hot Spot Action Plan.
Team members include ODOC correctional officers who worked inside the Comanche County jail early in the pandemic and learned, first-hand, best practices to cease the spread of the virus. These officers will also deliver additional PPE kits for staff, sanitation supplies, and an additional fogger. Officers ensure the facility follows a sanitation schedule and documents temperatures inside housing units without air conditioning. The team also includes a representative from food services to assist with the inmates’ nutritional needs and agency experts in environmental health and safety, human resources, and medical services. Each team member helps the warden identify resources needed to quickly attack the virus. “While we are taking many proactive steps to limit the spread of this virus in our facilities, we also continue to respond swiftly to hot spots that develop,” said ODOC Director Scott Crow. “Our plans continue to evolve and improve as we learn more, and we are committed to providing safe environments and appropriate medical care for our inmates.”
Several weeks ago, ODOC medical staff developed a plan to identify hot spots within facilities. The plan sets forth specific criteria. A facility or specific unit within a facility is automatically designated a hot spot when at least 20% of inmates test positive within a celled housing unit or at least 15% of inmates test positive within an open bay housing unit. In situations with fewer positive cases, medical staff will consider other factors such as the medical acuity level of the unit, the known vulnerability of the population, the number of staff positives, and any other factors that increase the risk of infection and spread.
The medical decision to declare a hot spot triggers a number of steps to contain the virus, including ceasing visitation, testing all inmates in the hot spot area, quarantining/isolating those positive and those exposed, moving staff work locations to other areas of the facility, and providing additional PPE kits for staff. Medical staff also increases monitoring of all the inmates in that hot area, ensuring immediate and proper medical responses. They also determine if an inmate requires transport to a local hospital for care beyond the facility’s capacity.
Starting this week, several Rapid Response Teams deployed to ODOC facilities with a hot spot. Monday, a Rapid Response Team made its first visit to Northeast Oklahoma Community Corrections Center in Vinita. ODOC medical services designated the facility a hot spot when more than half the inmates tested positive for the virus. Within 72 hours of a visit, each team member will document steps taken to meet the ODOC action plan.
To release a facility or unit from hot spot status, ODOC medical staff will evaluate the number of positive test results, the number of inmates in quarantine and/or isolation, and the medical acuity of inmates at the location.
As of Friday, September 18, nearly 900 inmates are listed as currently COVID-19 positive – 4% of ODOC’s current incarcerated population. Unfortunately, five inmates have died possibly due to COVID-19. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause of death. ODOC provides a list of testing results on its website, updated daily.