President of Ontario’s Public Service Employees Union, Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas, says the quick work of Kenora Jail staff and healthcare leaders helped to save lives within the facility, when two cases of COVID-19 were found earlier this month.

“Our corrections members know there are a large number of cases in other jurisdictions, particularly in the federal correctional system,” said Thomas. “They are determined to do everything possible to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in Ontario correctional facilities, and they successfully contained an outbreak in Kenora.”

“Quite simply put, our corrections members are the best in the country, bar none,” added Thomas. “What took place at the Kenora Jail is just further proof of that.”

On June 6, the Northwestern Health Unit confirmed that two inmates within the Kenora Jail had screened positive for COVID-19 through presumptive, voluntary testing. Both inmates were asymptomatic, and the health unit says they must have contracted the virus within the facility.

The health unit then worked with the Kenora Jail and the Ministry of Correctional Services to implement further safety protocols, and voluntary testing for all staff and inmates was ‘strongly recommended.’ No new cases at the jail have been found at this point.

OPSEU and Thomas note that staff worked quickly to isolate the two inmates and any potential contacts, and to disinfect their housing areas. Two additional housing areas were also scrubbed, and all COVID-19 tests have since come back as negative, including secondary tests of the original two inmates.

“I’m extremely proud of our members. All you have to do is look at the minimal COVID-19 numbers in our facilities to see how effectively they’ve limited the spread of the coronavirus. Now that’s a job well done,” said OPSEU Treasurer and Correctional Officer, Eddy Almedia.

The Kenora OPP are still searching for a suspect who was seen bringing suspicious packages to inmates within the Kenora Jail on June 14. Anyone with any information regarding the incident is asked to contact the Kenora OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or 807-548-5534.

The Kenora Jail serves as the district jail for northwestern Ontario.

For more information:
What do we know about asymptomatic COVID-19 cases?
COVID-19 tests for jail staff, inmates ‘strongly recommended’, NWHU