Two more cases were reported over the weekend as part of the Central North Correctional Centre outbreak.
The total case count is now at 23, according to Richard Dionne, president of CNCC Local 369 and a corrections officer at the superjail.
He wrote in an email that the additional cases are still in the same unit/wing of the institution. The outbreak was first reported over the last weekend of February, starting with 14 cases. More cases were reported a few days later when the number climbed to 21.
The matter is very concerning for Joanne Leonard, whose son is currently in unit 5 of the institute. In her initial email to the paper, she wrote her son had informed her that the outbreak was in unit 6. Dionne confirmed that the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit had identified the outbreak in unit 6.
"This news is very disturbing," wrote Leonard in a follow-up email. "The threat is very real. We worry about inmate conflicts in the best of times, but they are fighting an enemy they cannot see. My loved one is across from the unit directly in front affected with the outbreak."
From her conversations with her son, Leonard said everyone (inmates) is nervous.
"All the inmates have been asking for blue forms to reach out to the ombudsman, but have been denied," she said.
Dionne said he wasn't aware of anything like that happening.
"I would see no reason for why they would be denied that," he said. "We hand out blue letters regularly. We're still putting out inmate mail, none of that has changed for us."
In addition to that, Dionne said, inmates can also call the ombudsman office. The toll-free number (inside Ontario only) on the Ombudsman Ontario website is 800-263-1830. Linda Williamson, director of communications, Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario, said inmates should dial the number as 0-800-263-1830, whereas the general public should use 1-800-263-1830.
"I was told there is hydrogen peroxide available to wipe the phone handsets and exchange a empty bottle for a full bottle and also offer new masks once a week," Leonard also said. "They feel their human rights have been violated and they want the world to know they are there."
In an email from the Ministry of the Solicitor General, media spokesperson Andrew Morrison said, "Protecting the health and safety of correctional services staff and those in provincial custody is the ministry’s top priority. Over the last number of months, the ministry has made important operational changes across all provincial correctional facilities."
Some of the changes made include,
For more information on the operational changes implemented at provincial correctional facilities to respond to COVID-19, please visit: https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/Corrections/CorrectionalServicesUpdateCOVID19.html
Inmate testing information is also posted online.
Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com