THUNDER BAY — Another inmate who was placed in custody at the Thunder Bay District Jail has tested positive for COVID-19.
The jail was already in lockdown status because of a positive test that was reported on Tuesday. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit on Wednesday declared a COVID-19 outbreak at both the jail and the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre.
Bill Hayes, the president of OPSEU local 737 representing jail guards, says word of a second positive test was received Wednesday.
Hayes said the two people were in contact with each other as they had been placed in the same intake unit at the jail, prior to transfer to the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre where they are now in isolation.
Under COVID-19 protocols, all newly-admitted inmates at jails across Ontario are tested for COVID-19 if they give consent.
All new inmates are also housed in a separate area from the general population for 14 days.
"When we get them in the intake unit...to make space and to keep our intake units available for new arrivals, we'll send those intake inmates out to the correctional centre, which has developed an intake unit for those inmates to finish off their 14 days" in quarantine, Hayes explained.
"Now that we've had positive cases, those inmates will remain isolated from the rest of the population until this is all resolved."
Hayes said it's no surprise that inmates are testing positive.
"We expected it at some point, and that's what we've been preparing for...Those two cases are contained."
However, he said it shows the need for ongoing vigilance against the virus, and strict adherence to cleaning procedures and the wearing of PPE by staff and inmates alike.
Hayes said tensions are higher among the jail staff because of the pandemic, "but we're getting through. Staff are professional. We're getting the job done and making sure this stays contained."
It's not clear how long the lockdown will continue at the district jail.
There is no lockdown at the correctional centre.
The Ministry of the Solicitor-General, which is responsible for jails, issued a brief statement late Wednesday confirming that a second inmate transferred to the correctional centre from the jail has tested positive.
It said the lockdown at the jail remains in place while contact tracing continues.
Lockdown measures can vary, but may include the suspension of visitations, the postponement of inmate programs and the limiting of time outdoors.
The ministry did not respond to a TBNewswatch question asking when all the results of tests on other inmates and jail staff are expected to be returned.