SC Department of Corrections starting targeted testing at ‘hotspot’ facilities to slow spread of COVID-19

SC Department of Corrections starting targeted testing at ‘hotspot’ facilities to slow spread of COVID-19
SC Department of Corrections starting targeted testing at ‘hotspot’ facilities to slow spread of COVID-19 (Source: Jason Raven)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolinians with loved ones behind bars said the rising number of COVID-19 cases in prisons concerns them.

A woman who spoke to WIS on the condition of anonymity said she is very concerned about a loved one at a South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) facility, "I want him to come home. I don't want another family member to bury."

The facility the inmate is housed at is considered a 'hotspot' facility.

According to SCDC, as of Tuesday afternoon, they have tested 1,003 inmates for COVID-19. They said 346 people who are incarcerated have tested positive for the disease. They also said as of Tuesday, 116 of those inmates have been cleared by medical personnel.

One of the hardest hits facilities is Tyger River Correctional Institution in Spartanburg County. Director Bryan Stirling said there are 129 reported cases of COVID-19 at that facility as of Tuesday.

Stirling said the design of the prison makes it difficult to slow the spread of the disease. Offenders share bathrooms at the medium-security prison. "It's very hard to isolate. It's very hard to social distance because if they have to use the restroom and wash their hands there are a lot of high-touch areas," Stirling said.

To help slow the spread at their facilities, SCDC has partnered with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Starting Wednesday, they will be testing all inmates in two dorms at Kirkland Correctional in Columbia and at Tyger River.

Stirling said, "The method behind that is very deliberate. We will identify the positive and put them together. The negative we will pull out and put them in a dorm together. That's the start of the effort."

He said they will do this 'targeted testing' in other facilities as well but right now they want to focus on the 'hotspot' facilities.

Tuesday, the Department of Corrections reported another offender passed away due to complications from COVID-19.

According to SCDC, there are 71 active staff cases of COVID-19.

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