COVID-19 cases among Regina Correctional Centre staff nearly triple in two weeks

·2 min read
The Regina Correctional Centre is trying to contain an outbreak of COVID-19. (Kirk Fraser/CBC - image credit)
The Regina Correctional Centre is trying to contain an outbreak of COVID-19. (Kirk Fraser/CBC - image credit)

Cases of active COVID-19 among staff at the Regina Correctional Centre have nearly tripled in two weeks, with 36 workers currently positive for the virus.

That's up significantly from one week ago when staff reported 26 cases. Two weeks earlier the number of active cases among staff was 13 and on April 9 just five staff at the Regina jail had an active case of COVID-19.

About 400 staff work at the Regina Correctional Centre.

Active COVID cases among Regina Correctional Centre staff have been steadily increasing for the past month.
Active COVID cases among Regina Correctional Centre staff have been steadily increasing for the past month.(Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety)

"I've had calls from staff saying they're having trouble getting daycare because the daycare would prefer that they don't bring their children there at the present time," said Barry Nowoselsky of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU), which represents provincial correctional centre staff.

Monday's update, provided by the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, also listed 80 active known COVID cases among the Regina jail's more than 670 inmates, down from last week's high of 149.

My worry is that people are going to lose their lives and it was avoidable. - Barry Nowoselsky

Nowoselsky said the current rate of infection among staff and inmates was entirely preventable, if the government had vaccinated everyone living and working at provincial correctional centres months ago.

"My worry is that people are going to lose their lives and it was avoidable," Nowoselsky said.

"People shouldn't have to show up for work and have their lives put in jeopardy when it was all avoidable."

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) had recommended inmates and staff at provincial correctional centres receive priority vaccinations in Phase 2 of the rollout.

Nowoselsky said that never happened.

"The minister, quite frankly, he should resign. He should step down and resign because he has failed all essential workers in the province in regard to the vaccination rollout and quite frankly, jeopardized their lives," Nowoselsky said, referring to Health Minister Paul Merriman.

In previous interviews, Merriman has said the province is adhering to age-based vaccinations of inmates, but is prioritizing vaccinations for correctional centre staff.

NDP justice, corrections and policing critic Nicole Sarauer said her party has been calling on Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Christine Tell to resign over her handling of the pandemic in correctional centres.

"[Government's] failure to act with the advice that has been provided to them by the SHA is going to result in needless illnesses and potentially deaths," Sarauer said.

In an email, a spokesperson for Corrections, Policing and Public Safety said, "Corrections is working with the SHA to vaccinate eligible inmates across the correctional system on an ongoing basis."

They did not respond to requests for numbers of staff and inmates that have already received a COVID vaccination. The email said updated inmate vaccination information will be provided every Friday, starting April 30.