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Stopping jail outbreaks of COVID-19 needs to be a priority

June 22, 2021

CBC reports on Erin Moores’ submissions to the Ottawa board of health on jail outbreaks of COVID-19

Ottawa’s medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, has sent a letter to the province’s solicitor general asking the government to take steps to ensure there are no more COVID-19 outbreaks inside Ontario jails.

As CBC reports, the letter was sent the same day as a 30-day as a month-long lockdown ended at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. The lockdown began when thirty six inmates and five staff members tested positive for the virus.

Earlier this week, Erin Moores addressed the Ottawa board of health on the seriousness of jail outbreaks:

“The impact [of the outbreak] goes far beyond just those who contract COVID,” Ottawa lawyer Erin Moores told the city’s board of health meeting Monday night.

“The entire institution was on lockdown for weeks. When we say lockdown, we mean torturous conditions and we’re not using that word lightly.”

Moores detailed how callers to the jail hotline said they were confined to their cells for more than 23 hours a day with no access to the yard, fresh air programs, visits or in some instances, reading materials.

Dr. Etches agreed:

Etches acknowledged those problems facing inmates during a lockdown and wants to find an alternative way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside jails.

The same issues have come up inside long-term care homes during outbreaks.

“When someone is in confinement, alone, for 23½ hours, that can’t be good for health,” she said

“This is a hard downside that we’ve seen in this pandemic and where we need to really learn about how to engage people and find other ways to make that more humane.”

Read the CBC report and Dr. Etches’ recommendations here.

Lawyers

Erin Moores