Skip to content

Penetanguishene superjail outbreak total climbs to 21

Union president says that while stress levels among staff remains high, he doesn't know of any positive staff cases
The Central North Correctional Centre number of cases has increased to 21. Mehreen Shahid/MidlandToday file photo.

Since last week, 21 inmates at Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) have tested positive for COVID-19, seven of which were reported today.

The cases are still contained to the same unit where the initial 14 were identified over the weekend, said Richard Dionne, president of the CNCC Local 369.

The corrections officer said he could not share the total number of inmates in that wing, but noted that the area remains isolated.

"I don't know the full count and I can't give it to you anyway for security reasons," said Dionne, speaking to MidlandToday.

He said he was thankful that no staff cases have been identified at this time.

"Hopefully, it stays that way," said Dionne. "The health unit came in the other day to offer voluntary staff testing. I don't know how many staff got tested, but none of those that did, to my knowledge, have come back positive."

He said the same safety protocols are being followed with staff wearing increased PPE when interacting with inmates and those incarcerated being provided with masks if needed.

"There haven't been any additional measures put into place right now," said Dionne.

As for the virus possibly spreading in the air, he said, every unit functions independently in terms of ventilation. 

"I'm very hopeful we can contain it to the one unit and not have it spread to the entire institution," Dionne said, adding the stress level among staff remains high.

"The workload has increased just based on the way that the operation changes because we're limiting day-room use and following protocol around higher use of PPE.

And it's also the same for inmates, he added.

"They just get more and more frustrated being locked down," Dionne said. "Increased cell time is never good for anyone. That's been put out there by a number of professionals that time locked in the cell by yourself or with one other person isn't beneficial."

A request for comment from the province was not received by publication time.