COVID outbreak at Sarnia Jail

·2 min read

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Sarnia Jail on Sunday after an inmate tested positive for the virus.

This is just the fourth positive inmate test since the pandemic began, but the second since Jan. 27. The first case in the jail was recorded Oct. 25, with another Dec. 22. All three inmates recovered, while the Feb. 7 case remains active.

Another outbreak at the jail was declared earlier in January after four staff tested COVID positive. Despite two outbreaks in just over three weeks, Joel Bissonnette, correctional officer at the jail and president of the OPSEU Local 128, says staff are in a good position to continue doing their jobs while maintaining safety.

“We’re committed to everyone’s health and safety in that building, all staff and inmates in our care. We’re working with public health on how to best manage this,” Bissonnette says. “Even outside of the outbreak we have screening in place for all staff and visitors that come to the building.”

“We’re doing our best to prevent it from happening, but when an outbreak does happen it’s no one’s fault inside. It’s impossible to stop this 100 per cent,” he says.

Early in the pandemic, supply issues held up the delivery of enough PPE to the Sarnia Jail. Bissonnette says there hasn’t been a problem obtaining equipment since the spring. “Any issues we did have around PPE were resolved early. Our management and union have been working together the entire time to help manage this,” he says. “We haven’t had any issues around PPE since the very beginning.”

Bissonnette adds that although COVID has the spotlight now, other issues in the correctional world haven’t gone away. “The opioid crisis hasn’t gone anywhere, and fentanyl and contraband coming into institutions is still a concern,” he says. “This is just one more concern on top of everything else that we already deal with.”

Bissonnette commended his fellow union members for their handling of the situation. “I’m proud of all the staff for coming to work everyday and doing their jobs. Because when an outbreak happens, we’re all human, we all have our own anxieties and fears about this, and we all have our loved ones who are vulnerable,” he says.

“Despite that everyone’s still coming into work and showing up and doing their best to help manage this.”

Regionally, the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London had five active cases as of Sunday, with 20 resolved. Windsor’s South West Detention Centre had two active and five resolved.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent