COVID-19 outbreak declared at Edmonton Remand Centre, 7 staff test positive

Alberta Health Services has declared an outbreak at the Edmonton Remand Centre after seven contracted workers tested positive for COVID-19. 

In all seven cases, staff appeared to acquire the virus from outside the remand centre in north Edmonton, AHS spokesperson Amy Crofts said in an emailed statement on Saturday. There is no evidence to suggest the virus has spread within the facility, she said. 

The seven workers tested positive between Sept. 19 and Oct. 2, Crofts said. There have been no close contacts identified at the remand. AHS defines a close contact as anyone who spent more than 15 minutes and stayed within two metres of a person with a confirmed COVID-19 case. 

All people admitted to the remand are tested for COVID-19 and held under 14-day quarantine when they arrive. AHS says physical distancing and personal protective equipment protocols are in place. 

In response to follow-up questions from CBC News, AHS said it would not have any further information about the outbreak over the weekend. 

The outbreak at Canada’s largest prison comes after inmates expressed concern about COVID-19 protections. People incarcerated at the Edmonton remand described the quarantine unit as “hell”, with at least 22.5 hours in lock-up, little time to shower or make calls, and no access to books or the canteen. 

The province has previously dismissed calls to depopulate jails to allow for remaining inmates and staff to better physically distance. Some people incarcerated the remand were transferred to two empty units at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre. 

About 1,500 people are incarcerated at the Edmonton Remand, which has a capacity of about 2,000 people. 

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