Three people at the Wilkes Correctional Center in North Wilkesboro have tested positive for COVID-19, reported the Wilkes County Health Department Thursday afternoon.

The three are two inmates and one staff person at the prison, said Jared Belk, health educator supervisor at the health department.

Also Thursday afternoon, the health department reported that a sixth Wilkes County resident has died from causes associated with COVID-19. The person, in his/her 60s, died Thursday at a hospital in Winston-Salem.

A health department press release said the two inmates and one staff person at the Wilkes Correctional Center are in self-isolation. It also said prison inmates or prison staff are tested when symptomatic and transferred to another facility where they can be medically managed if they test positive.

The Wilkes Correctional Center, on Statesville Road, is a minimum custody state prison housing up to 262 adult males. There have been 1,188 positive COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths related to the virus in prisons and jails across the state.

In a prison or jail, a COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more lab-confirmed cases. When there is no evidence of continued transmission of COVID-19 in a prison or jail within a 28-day period, the outbreak is considered ended.

“The Wilkes Correctional Center has taken measures to protect detainees and employees to decrease the chances of person to person transmission throughout the facility,” stated the release. It said this includes temperature and symptoms checks twice a day and monitoring other medical information beyond what is normally required.

“The facility is reinforcing the importance of staff staying home when sick or to meet childcare needs, as well as restricted visitor access the center. The center implemented a zero visitor policy and restricted work release beginning in April 2020.”

The release said personal protective equipment is issued and social distancing policies are used where possible.

Willard said the Wilkes Correctional Center has worked to closely to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for mitigation steps.

She said the health department’s communicable disease team has been in constant communication with Wilkes Correctional Center staff. Health department staff have helped when needed regarding employee and detainee health and any new recommendations. 

The health department also has worked with the facility to identify a process for managing confirmed cases and close contacts to cases.


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