COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: March 15, 2020

This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada's (CSC’s) stakeholders from the Commissioner of CSC.

With all of the developments and increased attention on COVID-19 (novel Coronavirus) over the past few days, we can appreciate that you likely have questions about this situation and Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) preparedness.

This message will provide you with information on what CSC is doing to protect our employees, volunteers, our workspaces and our business. We also included the latest information on recommendations, as we want to ensure everyone is protected and safe.

While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our institutions, we continue to actively monitor, plan and engage with authorities on precautions we can take to minimize risks associated with the virus.

Latest guidance

There have been a number of recommendations by different officials and experts at the national, provincial and local levels in Canada, and other countries. To be clear, for all operational and occupational measures related to COVID-19, CSC takes its guidance from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Treasury Board Secretariat.

The CSC’s business is operational in nature and our work in managing inmates does not stop. Our commitment to public safety continues to be paramount.

Precautionary measures and operational decisions

Planning and testing:

Health and safety is our priority. CSC has an Emergency Preparedness and Response Framework to address planning for an outbreak, which outlines plans, medical responses, equipment requirements, and protocols. These were reviewed in each region, including running contingency exercises. During these, we consider all sides of our business (outbreak protocols, supplies and food, etc.).

As you know, we have dedicated health care services in our institutions and are prepared to handle cases of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19. In fact, we deal with influenza each year and have established protocols for medical isolation, treatment and quarantine, if needed. CSC has an active screening process in place. We have protocols in place to test those who meet public health criteria and to provide them with immediate clinical interventions, as required.

Essential work:

All individuals entering CSC will be screened upon arrival.

Our staff are critical to ensuring that correctional institutions continue to operate. We need them to stay healthy and safe. We continue to remind everyone of prevention measures and to stay home if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Comings and goings in institutions and suspended visits:

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has suspended offender visits in all federal institutions. This includes volunteers. Other options are available to inmates and their family and friends to stay in contact, such as video visitation or telephone.

We are focusing on only allowing critical service delivery in institutions. All other work should be conducted by videoconferencing, telephone or postponed. For critical services where entry into an institution must proceed, these individuals will be actively screened. This means, they will be asked a series of questions prior to being able to enter.

CAC work:

We would like to encourage CACs to maintain open communication with management committees and support staff in order to continue to fulfill the mandate of the CAC to liaise and advise during this public health emergency. This could be achieved by teleconferences, to replace regularly scheduled in-person meetings, email and phone contact.

What we are doing to keep workspaces safe:

In addition to readiness on a number of fronts, we have enhanced cleaning protocols in our institutions, including disinfecting common areas of contact. We have also increased prevention awareness.

We reiterate that handwashing is the best way to prevent the spread of infection of this and most other infectious diseases. We have increased communications, including posters, fact sheets, discussions with employees and inmates, infographics and social media.

The facts about COVID-19

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, and possible pneumonia, which can look like other illnesses circulating at this time of year, like the common cold and the flu. The virus is spread from an infected person through:

The virus is not known to spread through ventilation systems or through water. For up-to-date information about the outbreak, visit Canada.ca/coronavirus.

Prevent spread

Like with any infectious disease, the best way to prevent the spread is to:

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer has advised against holding or attending any mass gatherings. Out of an abundance of caution, we are directing that any large in-person meetings or gatherings that are not essential be postponed, or consider holding them via teleconference or videoconference.

Sick? Stay home!

We all have a part to play in protecting ourselves, those around us, and the public from the spread of illness. The recent rapid spread of COVID-19 further underscores that we all need to take action to slow and prevent the transmission of the virus.

We are blessed with dedicated volunteers and community partners, but if you have concerns, the health system has professionals who can help you determine what you need to do to care for yourself, and any steps to take to care if you are ill. If you are sick, we ask that you stay home and avoiding coming to one of our workplaces.

Spread the word

Please ensure that all CAC members are receiving these messages.

If they have any questions, they should be encouraged to reach out to their regional member of the National Executive Committee. If in doubt, CAC members should also feel free to reach out to your local CSC point of contact and follow social media to access the most current information.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are staying on top of this as it evolves. We will continue to share information as it becomes available.

Thank you for your collaboration and understanding.

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