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A B.C. prison that made it 2 years without a COVID-19 outbreak now has 59 cases

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Fifty-nine inmates at a medium-security federal prison in B.C.'s Fraser Valley are currently infected with COVID-19, according to the Correctional Service of Canada.

The federal agency's website lists the 59 active cases at Mountain Institution in Agassiz on its active outbreaks page. A total of 60 inmate cases have been detected since the outbreak began on April 4. One inmate who tested positive has since recovered. 

The correctional service does not list the number of employees who test positive when outbreaks are declared at federal prisons. CTV News inquired as to the number of staff cases at Mountain Institution and was told it is "confidential" and could not be released. 

Derek Chin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers for the Pacific region, told CTV News none of the union's members at Mountain Institution have tested positive so far.

He added that it's possible workers at the prison who are not sworn correctional officers have tested positive, but said his union wouldn't have that information.

On Friday, the CSC reached out to CTV News to confirm that there have been 11 staff cases at the prison.

The correctional service said it is "closely monitoring the situation" and offering COVID-19 tests to inmates and staff.

"Employees are required to perform rapid self-tests and attest to a negative result in order to prevent possible spread at the institution," the service said.

Staff are also provided with "appropriate personal protective equipment" and inmates are provided medical masks and "are encouraged to wear them at all times when not in their cells," according to the CSC.

"This is an evolving situation and we continue to apply and reinforce infection prevention and control measures to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19, and adapt based on public health advice," the service said.

Mountain Institution has a capacity of 440 inmates. According to the CSC, 88.3 per cent of current inmates have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 82.4 per cent have received two shots and 63.6 per cent have received a booster dose.

Chin said those inmates who have tested positive so far have mild illness, and the union is not aware of anyone needing to be transported off-site for medical care.

The outbreak at Mountain Institution is one of two currently active in the federal prison system in B.C. There are also currently four inmate cases listed at the William Head Institution, a minimum security prison on Vancouver Island.

The first case in that outbreak was detected on April 18.

There have been several other COVID-19 outbreaks at federal and provincial correctional institutions in B.C. since the pandemic began, with the first and most notable federal outbreak occurring at the Mission Institution in March 2020.

The union criticized the CSC's handling of that outbreak, and has been vocal about the risk of COVID-19 to its members ever since. 

Correction

The union president's comments about vaccination requirements for visitors and contractors have been removed from this story. Those groups are required to show proof of vaccination before entering the Correctional Service of Canada facilities.

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