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Virus Outbreak Means Prisoner, Staffing Shifts

The Nash Printing Plant produced posters for the prisons from the CDC.
N.C. Department of Public Safety

A large COVID-19  outbreak at an eastern North Carolina prison has led officials to shutter a nearby facility and transfer its offenders elsewhere so guards can help relieve staff at the beleaguered Neuse Correctional Institution.

Officers from the Johnston Correctional Institution should start working in coming days at Neuse, where now more than 330 of the 700 offenders and about a dozen of its 250 employees are infected with the virus, the Division of Prisons said Monday.

Almost 200 test results from Neuse were pending. Mass testing was conducted after the first two offenders at Neuse, where prisoners live in dormitories, tested positive earlier this month.

"The staff at Neuse have been working in the toughest conditions, for weeks on end, and desperately needed support," state Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee said in a release. Some 98% of those testing positive at Neuse are asymptomatic, the division said, and none have died.

Operations at the Johnston prison, located about 25 miles from Neuse, are suspended temporarily. The prison's 600 offenders were sent, primarily on Saturday, to facilities in Troy and Morganton, where they are under quarantine following medical screenings. The prisoner shift also required the transfer of about 100 offenders at the Troy prison to one in Columbus County.

The Neuse prison also received shipments of personal protective gear and building disinfectant machines over the weekend, the division said. The state prison system has banned visitations and the receipt of prisoners from county jails. Some nonviolent offenders are being allowed to leave prison early and complete their sentence under community supervision.

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