COVID-19 outbreak declared at Edmonton Remand Centre

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Inmates are put in 14-day quarantine when they're admitted to the remand centre, defence lawyer Deborah Hatch told CBC. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Inmates are put in 14-day quarantine when they're admitted to the remand centre, defence lawyer Deborah Hatch told CBC. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

The Edmonton Remand Centre is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak with 43 inmates having tested positive as of Friday, Alberta Health Services confirmed this week.

That's up from 39 positive cases on Wednesday, as reported by AHS.

An AHS spokesperson, Kerry Williamson, said the outbreak was declared on Sept. 8.

At prisons and correctional facilities, an outbreak is listed when there are five or more positive cases.

Williamson said it's a mix of community and centre-acquired cases — meaning, some inmates had the virus when they were admitted and others picked it up at the centre.

All inmates have a mild form of the illness, he said.

Deborah Hatch, a lawyer in Edmonton and a director with the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, has clients at the remand centre.

"That's a lot of people that are positive for COVID in an environment where they don't have the ability to protect themselves," Hatch said Wednesday. "I have asked if all inmates are being tested now that they know that there is an outbreak, and I don't have an answer to that."

She said defence lawyers are concerned for their clients and for themselves and their families.

The virus could be transmitted within the centre and also through remand staff going in and out of the building.

Not knowing if all inmates are being tested is putting up roadblocks to lawyers being able to make informed decisions, she said.

"We want to ensure that we can continue to run trials and represent people and be safe within our offices. And we can't do that if we don't have the proper information,' Hatch said.

She said she was told all inmates admitted into custody are placed in a quarantine unit for 14 days.

The remand centre is a holding cell where people wait for trial or further action on their charges.

CBC News requested information Wednesday from the Justice and Solicitor General about protocols at the remand centre related to case numbers, testing and hygiene, and has not received a response.

A list of outbreaks at facilities can be found on the Alberta Health COVID-19 website. Outbreaks are declared over four weeks after the last positive case is identified.

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