OKLAHOMA CITY — With case numbers climbing among both inmates and employees, COVID-19 testing is now mandatory for all Oklahoma Department of Corrections employees.
Speaking at a press conference on Sept. 22, Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow confirmed that with almost 1,400 active cases, 6.4 percent of the state’s inmate population currently has COVID-19, prompting the move from voluntary COVID-19 testing to mandatory. An additional 63 employees currently are positive for the virus as well.
“Our staff work in communities,” Crow said. “They have families in those communities. It’s important that we safeguard our staff and inmates so we stop the spread.”
To date, 22 inmates have been hospitalized due to the virus, while three employees and nine inmates have died.
Along with more testing for employees, the department will also increase testing for the roughly 6,000 inmates who are considered high risk.
Corrections facilities are automatically considered hot spots if at least 20 percent of the inmates in cells or 15 percent of the inmates in open bay housing test positive. The designation can also be applied to individual blocks or unit within an individual facility. The label can also be applied to facilities and units that have higher rates of risk factors, such as an inmate population that is predominantly over age 65 or has a disproportionate number of co-morbidities.
As of Sept. 22, DOC hot spots include Eddie Warrior in Taft, Joseph Harp in Lexington, Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita, Charles E. Johnson in Alva, Jackie Brannon in McAlester, North Fork in Sayre, Enid Community Corrections Center and William S. Key near Fort Supply.
At the time of the press conference, the Oklahoma State Department of Health had 17 active cases listed in Hominy’s zip code, which also includes the Dick Conner Correctional Facility north of town. More than 100 inmates housed at the facility tested positive in August.
Prior to the press conference, the state of Oklahoma announced that staff working at those facilities would receive an additional $2 per hour in hazard pay as long as the site is designated a hot spot.
“Those folks have incredibly difficult jobs, and it’s important to provide them with this little bit of extra support if we can,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said.