A total of 19 staff from Mission Institution’s medium and minimum security units have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Correctional Service Canada (CSC).
A CSC spokesperson called it an “evolving situation,” but no inmates are currently testing positive.
“We have not brought any COVID-19 positive staff back to work, with or without symptoms, until they are fully recovered,” the spokesperson said.
All staff who test positive are required to self-isolate at home until they are cleared for work, and the return-to-work protocols for asymptomatic high-risk contacts meet or exceed provincial public health guidance, according to CSC.
They said there are protocols in place to work with public health authorities to return staff to the workplace, if needed, to maintain critical public safety services.
Protocols include returning asymptomatic staff who’ve finished most of their 10-day isolation, rapid testing and work isolation measures, CSC said, adding staff are required to perform a rapid test and attest to a negative result before entering the site.
Two other Fraser Valley prisons are currently experiencing outbreaks. Matsqui Institution has had 44 inmates test positive for COVID-19, and Kent Institution has had 93 inmates test positive, with 18 cases among staff.
Mission Institution struggled with staff shortages after suffering one of Canada’s worst prison outbreaks at the start of the pandemic, which cut its guard workforce down to approximately 60 per cent of its normal capacity by the end of 2020.
Currently, there are 109 correctional officers off work in B.C. from either a positive COVID test, or from being in close contact with an infected person, according to Derek Chin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers’ Pacific region.
He said that’s approximately 10 per cent of their workforce. Mission Institution staff account for 17 per cent of that number.
“As a federal employee for CSC, we’re required to have 10 days off. But since we’re in the province, and we live in the province, they say five days. So there’s a lot of a mixed direction, and it’s really confusing for a lot of staff,” Chin said. “They seem to blur the lines between provincial and federal federal regulations.”
There are approximately 120 correctional officers working at Mission Institution.