Health Department: Salisbury prison outbreak now up to 72 positives

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2020

SALISBURY — While single-day increases can fluctuate, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Rowan County, including in Piedmont Correctional Institute, which is now the second-largest local outbreak.

The Rowan County Health Department says there have been 72 COVID-19 positives at the prison in roughly two weeks. That includes 70 inmates and 2 staff members.

N.C. Department of Public Safety spokesman John Bull says those who test positive are quarantined for observation and temperature checks. If that positive inmate then shows symptoms, the person is “promptly separated from the rest of the offender population and placed in medical isolation.”
Bull said each prison has protocols in place in case advanced medical care is needed.

Bull added that all housing units at the prison are kept in their own groups to prevent mixing of offenders.

“These cohorted housing units go to chow together, to recreation time together, to pill call together, etc,” Bull wrote in an email to the Post. “This is a virus-mitigation strategy to better prevent the spread of the virus in a prison.”

He said all staff and offenders should receive at least five, three-ply face masks and “absolutely are required to wear them in prisons with a COVID-19 outbreak.”

Data from the N.C. Department of Public Safety show 31 inmates are considered recovered after testing positive. And while it shows there have been 95 total positives, including those now considered recovered, Bull said that number may not include some of the most recent testing data. The state data, for example, shows just 46 active cases, while the Health Department shows 70.

However, Piedmont Correctional is also a designated intake facility where new offenders from county jails are processed to begin their prison sentences, Bull said. State data does not make clear whether inmates transferred elsewhere are included in the total, but Rowan County Health Department Nursing Director Meredith Littell said staff have all been tied in some way to the prison.

There have been more than 2,500 tests conducted in the prison, making it one of the most-tested prisons in the state.

The increase in cases at Piedmont Correctional comes as average daily increases across the county have also ticked up slightly, with an increase of just four on Monday being a one-day respite from a seven-day period that’s produced three of the top six daily increases.

One week ago, the 14-average of new cases hovered around 20. It was about 25 on Tuesday.

There were an additional 52 cases added Tuesday and one death that occurred at Liberty Commons, where there are now 12 dead after testing positive. The nursing home on South Main Street is the site of the third-deadliest nursing home outbreak in Rowan County. All but 35 deaths have occurred outside of congregate living facilities.

There were 24 Rowan County residents hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday and 434 active cases. There have been 3,591 positives since March, 3,052 recoveries and 105 deaths.

Across the state, there have been 221,258 positives after 3.21 million tests. Additionally, 3,670 people are dead after testing positive. There were 1,013 North Carolinians hospitalized Tuesday.