FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2020
Contact: FDC Communications
FDC Issues COVID-19 Updates
Increased testing occurring at Tomoka and Sumter Correctional Institutions
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Following new positive COVID-19 test results at Tomoka Correctional Institution and Sumter Correctional Institution, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) announced testing efforts to increase measures to protect the inmate population from the spread of the virus.
Statement from Secretary Mark Inch: “Following the State of Emergency issued by Governor DeSantis, our agency implemented a coordinated response to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state correctional facilities. Our team of highly trained medical clinicians, administrators, and correctional experts meet daily to assess the operations of Florida’s prison system as it relates to this pandemic. I have traveled to many of our major facilities to observe operations, and I am incredibly proud of our officers and medical professionals who’ve shown courage and compassion in the face of this public health emergency.”
“The Florida Department of Corrections operates 50 major correctional institutions in addition to seven private facilities managed by the Department of Management Services. FDC’s adherence to initial and evolving CDC guidelines has steered our efforts to protect inmates through medical isolation, medical quarantine, reducing transfers and intakes, and practicing social distancing. We have successfully prevented community spread of COVID-19 at the majority of our major facilities. At Tomoka and Sumter, where we’ve seen community spread, we’ve expanded testing for asymptomatic at-risk inmates which allows us to focus our medical personnel and services. We have also offered voluntary testing to all staff at these two facilities.”
More than 155 asymptomatic inmates at Tomoka and Sumter had samples collected by health services staff on April 29. Those tests are now pending, as shown on FDC’s COVID-19 response web page. COVID-19 testing for inmates is not mandatory. Inmates who opt out of testing will be kept in the appropriate housing (quarantine or isolation), based on their symptoms, for at least 14 days.
All inmates with a positive test will be placed in medical isolation and will be provided proper medical care as determined by onsite clinicians.
FDC’s testing priorities closely align with recommendations from the CDC and current treatment protocols established by the Florida Department of Health. If an inmate begins experiencing symptoms indicative of COVID-19, they will be moved to medical isolation, tested and treated by health services staff.
FDC is also offering voluntary COVID-19 testing to all staff members who work at Tomoka CI and Sumter CI. Testing of asymptomatic staff members will identify staff who may not know they are infected. This will prevent asymptomatic carriers from interacting with the inmate population and provide employees and their families with information to better manage their health.
Staff members with positive test results will not be allowed to return to work until a full recovery is documented by a medical professional, following Department of Health and CDC guidelines. Regional staffing plans have been developed to supplement correctional officers and medical staff, if staffing requirements cannot be met due to positive test results.
Additional measures taken at both institutions include:
- Supplementary health services personnel have been assigned to both institutions to assist with COVID-19 treatment.
- Health Services staff have reviewed quantities of oxygen at facilities, assessed availability of oxygen concentrators, thermometers and other equipment in anticipation of higher demand.
- Health Services staff are conducting rounds twice daily through the inmate population, conducting temperature and medical checks, providing education and answering questions from inmates.
- All symptomatic inmates within the institutions have been placed in medical isolation.
- Inmates identified by their treating clinician as needing advanced medical care are immediately transported to outside hospitals.
- All inmate movement within the institutions has been restricted.
- The institutions transitioned to providing all services, including medical services and meals, to inmates within their dormitories.
- All staff and inmates were issued and are required to wear cloth face coverings.
- Rigorous housekeeping practices throughout the institution were already in place and have been heightened as a result of the test results.
- Additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been sent and staged for utilization by staff treating and supervising inmates. More PPE is on standby for distribution if needed.
- Non-medical inmate transfers to the institutions have been temporarily suspended.
- FDC has extended the suspension of visitation at all correctional institutions statewide. The decision to reinstate the normal visitation schedule will be evaluated in consultation with public health experts.
To keep Florida residents, inmates at the facility and visitors safe and aware about the status of the virus, FDC is issuing regular updates as information becomes available at www.dc.state.fl.us/comm/covid-19.html.
FDC is closely monitoring developments associated with the spread of this disease. FDC's Office of Health Services, institutional medical staff and institutional operations staff work hand- in-hand with the Department of Health to quickly engage and resolve infectious disease outbreaks as soon as they occur.
FDC is committed to ensuring inmates receive appropriate medical care in line with evolving national standards for correctional institutions. FDC has a constitutional mandate to provide health care for all inmates incarcerated in Florida’s prisons.
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs 24,000 members statewide, incarcerates approximately 94,000 inmates and supervises nearly 161,000 offenders in the community.