All inmates to be tested for COVID-19 at state prisons in North Carolina

All inmates to be tested for COVID-19 at state prisons in North Carolina
The announcement of this testing comes after a court order that all inmates be tested. It was announced last week and officially signed Wednesday. (Source: File photo)

NORTH CAROLINA (WBTV) - Officials have announced that all inmates will be tested for COVID-19 at state prisons in North Carolina.

The announcement of this testing comes after a court order that all inmates be tested. It was announced last week and officially signed Wednesday.

North Carolina Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee announced Thursday that based on updated guidance from DHHS, state prison officials have started the testing process of all 31,200 offenders throughout the state prison system for COVID-19.

Officials estimate it will take at least 60 days to complete the testing, and will cost about $3.3 million.

State officials say they are already testing everyone transferred to prison from county jails. Those inmates are being held under medical quarantine until the test results are returned, officials say. Ishee says prison officials will also test offenders in the cases where they need to transfer offenders between facilities. or they will keep them in medical isolation for 14 days in lieu of testing upon arrival at their new facility.

A North Carolina judge recently ordered a temporary stop to many of the transfers. In a written order signed June 16, Wake County Superior Court Judge Vinston Rozier Jr. said that the prisons must stop transferring inmates - unless they need to be moved for medical reasons or because of a serious risk to their safety — without first testing an inmate or putting them in medical isolation for 14 days after being transferred.

The tests will be analyzed by LapCorp, with the results transmitted directly into the division of prisons offender healthcare records. Officials say results will continue to be posted on the Department of Public Safety website.

Ishee says testing is currently underway Thursday at Albemarle Correctional Institution in New London in Stanly County.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated COVID-19 testing guidelines on June 9.

As of Thursday, Commissioner Ishee says they have tested 2,809 offenders housed in state facilities. This is almost 10 percent, representing a very small percentage of inmates who have been tested since the pandemic began.

Officials say the majority of offenders in the state prison system who tested positive for COVID-19 are now presumed to have recovered. Of the 717 individuals who have tested positive so far, 635 have met CDC and NCDHHS criteria to be released from medical isolation.

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