COVID-19 update for Thursday: Vt. renews prison contract; NH reports nursing home outbreak

Associated Press
Published: 10/1/2020 9:07:14 PM
Modified: 10/1/2020 9:07:05 PM

Vermont has extended its contract for a year to house more than 200 inmates at a private Mississippi prison with new stipulations after an outbreak of the coronavirus infected a majority of the Vermont inmates, interim Corrections Commission Jim Baker said Thursday.

The Corrections Department also hopes to put a plan in place to end the practice of shipping inmates to Mississippi, which it does because of a lack of capacity in Vermont prisons, he said.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Baker said. “There’s no guarantees but we’re going to be working on that to reduce that population further with the goal of having no out-of-state inmates.” He said he hoped that could be accomplished within the next year and a half to two years.

None of the 211 inmates housed at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility operated by CoreCivic currently have COVID-19, he said.

The contract and addendum with CoreCivic went into effect Wednesday. It clarifies that Vermont inmates must be kept separate from the rest of the inmate population and adds Vermont’s COVID-19 protocol. The Vermont Corrections Department also now has access to camera systems in the Mississippi prison so that it can view remotely what is happening there, he said.

Under the contract, the state has access to 350 beds which Baker said is in case of an emergency where the state needs beds available such as when a heating system failed at a state facility one recent winter.

“I want to be very clear. We do not intend to have 350 inmates in Mississippi nor do we pay for all 350 beds,” he said.

Since January, the number of Vermont inmates in Mississippi has dropped from 268 to 211 currently, he said.

NH officials report 47 COVID cases at Bedford nursing home

There have been 47 cases of COVID-19 reported among residents and staff at a long-term care facility in Bedford in the last 10 days, New Hampshire health officials said Thursday.

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette said 33 of the cases involved residents at the Bedford Hills Center and 14 involved staff members.

“That is a testament to how quickly COVID-19 moves,” she said during the regular virus briefing with Gov. Chris Sununu.

Shared items might have led to outbreak at Portsmouth, NH, church

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office says a COVID-19 outbreak at a Portsmouth church possibly came from the traditional practice of using shared items.

A letter to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, said the church was first notified by Portsmouth health officials on July 25 that the Greek Orthodox practice of using a single, shared chalice and spoon was in violation of the state’s guidance for places of worship.

The letter says the practice seems to have continued and must be modified in order for the church to remain in compliance with state rules about coronavirus precautions.

During his briefing, Sununu said it was his understanding that church officials disagree with the state requirements.

“We don’t want our guidance to interfere with how people practice their religion,” Sununu said, but the state is going to work to make sure the church understand the risks.

An email to the church was not immediately returned on Thursday.

Officials ask for more kindness in coronavirus calls

New Hampshire health officials say some people are “weary” of personal restrictions imposed to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Elizabeth Daly, infectious disease chief of the state Department of Health and Human Services, says people need to do their part in answering calls from state officials and following their guidance.

“Sometimes people have a tough time accepting that news initially, not being very nice to people who are calling them,” Daly said.

She said eventually people comply.

“It’s not so much an issue of compliance, we can work through that,” Daly said. “It’s more the initial reluctance to quarantine or pushing back on having to quarantine.”

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