DOVER — The Delaware Department of Correction said that, as of Tuesday, more than 50% of the state’s inmates have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition, nearly 60% of officers, medical personnel and professional staff are vaccinated.
Nearly 60% of male inmates at the state’s largest prison, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly two-thirds of female offenders are fully vaccinated, according to the DOC.
By the third week in April, every inmate in DOC custody had been offered the COVID-19 vaccine, the DOC said, as 2,256 inmates have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose while in custody, including 1,748 inmates (41%) who are fully vaccinated. Additionally, 83% of DOC’s highest-risk inmates, those over age 60, have been administered the shot.
The DOC said its health care staff continues to circulate throughout housing areas to offer information and vaccinations to unvaccinated inmates.
The DOC’s vaccination effort is supported by a comprehensive outreach campaign within its facilities, including printed educational materials in Spanish and English and a video education series that features informational messages and testimonials from local and national leaders, doctors, community advocates and correctional officers. The DOC also has had in-person visits by community leaders and medical professionals to provide education and vaccine advocacy to the inmate population.
Inmates are offered several incentives to encourage vaccination, including bonus good-time credits, special meals and commissary gift bags.
Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle leads state prisons in the percentage of inmates who have been vaccinated at 63%, followed by the Vaughn Correctional Center at 59%. Other prison and community corrections facilities have registered inmate-vaccination rates from 43% to more than 80%, using data provided by the DOC.
The DOC said it has an inmate-vaccination goal of 80% by the end of June.
This past week, the DOC also completed a project to install air-improvement equipment by Eagle X Pro that has been demonstrated to eliminate 99% of pathogens and contaminants, including a new adaption to decontaminate for COVID-19. The DOC became the first American correctional system to employ this technology in February, beginning at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington. Through last week, 159 Eagle X Pro coronavirus-discharge units have been installed into the air-supply ducts of HVAC systems across all prison, work-release and violation-of-probation facilities. These systems are set to circulate air to ensure a continuous flow of its virus-fighting ions throughout climate-controlled indoor spaces.
The DOC said these measures, supported by ongoing COVID-19-mitigation practices, have kept inmate COVID-19 cases in the single digits for more than three months and are helping to advance the department’s phased return to normal operations.
“Since early January more than 3,400 inmates and staff have received COVID-19 vaccinations and we are well on the way to achieving our vaccination goals,” DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a statement. “This strong emphasis on vaccinations and our investment in new ventilation technology that remediates against COVID-19 along with our ongoing comprehensive mitigation strategy have driven COVID-19 cases to the lowest levels in a year. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of our exceptional officers, staff, and contract healthcare provider(s) there are hopeful signs that we are nearing the end of this very challenging public health epidemic.”
Three inmates are COVID-19-positive as of Tuesday, according to the DOC. None of the three is symptomatic. The majority of new positive cases over the past several months have been new intakes who are pretrial detentioners, not sentenced offenders, the DOC reported.
A total of 11,750 inmate COVID-19 tests have been administered over the past year, and as a further safeguard when returning to the community, the DOC has offered voluntary antigen testing to departing inmates. Of the 1,249 inmates who have elected to receive antigen testing since December, 1,248 tests have been negative and only one was positive, per the DOC.