CULPEPER COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Family members of inmates serving time at Coffeewood Correctional Center are coming forward with serious concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak there.
While over 300 inmates have recovered, 264 remain COVID-positive, 33 staff members have the virus, one inmate remains hospitalized, and one inmate died.
Gregory Carter is the Deputy Director of Communications within Virginia’s Department of Corrections. He says all protocols are being followed at Coffeewood, but many family members say that’s not what they’re being told by those being held there.
“We all have the same stories, we’re hearing the same story from all the inmates,” said Ashley Presgraves, the daughter of a Coffeewood inmate. “It scares me to death that my dad might not make it out those doors.”
Presgraves’s father tested positive for COVID-19 inside the prison walls. She says he’s only showing mild symptoms. “But he said there’s a lot of other guys in there that are suffering,” Presgraves added.
Many women that spoke with NBC29, including Presgraves, insist healthy inmates are being mixed with COVID-positive inmates. Shannon Fox’s husband tested positive just a few days ago.
“And then they brought guys in that were negative,” Fox said. “So they’re actually bringing inmates in that are healthy and mixing them in with the sick ones.”
Mary Helton is engaged to a man incarcerated at Coffeewood. She reiterated the same concern.
“They’re moving inmates, some positive, some negative, and they’re moving some not at all,” Helton said.
VDOC’s Gregory Carter says inmates are being properly separated.
“COVID-19 positive offenders are placed in medical isolation where they are monitored by our medical staff. Groups of COVID-19 positive offenders can be co-horted together in a housing unit separate from COVID-19 negative offenders,” he said to NBC29 in a statement.
Presgraves, Fox, and Helton still question if the health protocols are being followed.
“The numbers speak for everything,” Helton said. “They went from no cases to hundreds of cases over the matter of three weeks or so.”
“It’s almost as if they’re trying to get everyone sick,” Fox said. “There’s already been a death there.”
“What’s going on behind these doors?” Presgraves asked. “I think people need to be held accountable for it.”
NBC29 requested to speak directly with staff at Coffeewood. VDOC declined to conduct any media interviews, saying Coffeewood staff are very busy, working around the clock to manage the facilities.
11/29/20 VDOC Statement from Deputy Director of Communications Gregory Carter:
When DOC facilities experience COVID-19 outbreaks, the department deploys a pandemic response plan which implements guidelines from the CDC and the VDH. COVID-19 positive offenders are placed in medical isolation where they are monitored by our medical staff. Groups of COVID-19 positive offenders can be co-horted together in a housing unit separate from COVID-19 negative offenders.
In addition to isolating COVID-19 positive offenders, close contacts are to be quarantined for 14 days from last exposure with twice daily symptom and temperature checks, as directed by CDC and VDH guidelines.
Staff members testing positive for COVID-19 are to self-quarantine at home for 14 days and may return to work upon meeting criteria for ending home isolation.
Guidance specific for correctional facilities and detention centers during the outbreak of COVID-19, to ensure continuation of essential public services and protection of the health and safety of incarcerated and detained persons, staff, and visitors.
Sneeze/cough guard masks made by Virginia Correctional Enterprises have been provided to each staff member and offender. Offenders are required to wear their VCE masks. Staff are required to wear either the provided VCE masks or another form of PPE mask.
The VADOC’s pandemic response plan follows CDC recommendations for cleaning and disinfection during the COVID-19 response. Several times per day, staff and offenders clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, especially in common areas. Such surfaces may include objects/surfaces not ordinarily cleaned daily (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, sink handles, countertops, toilets, toilet handles, recreation equipment, kiosks, and telephones).
We are not asking our wardens or facility staff to conduct any media interviews as they are very busy working around the clock to manage their facilities.