MCF-Oak Park Heights COVID-19 Response
(Updated April 29, 2020)
Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell has directed each of the state’s prisons to implement “Stay with Unit” plans to provide living unit separation, and to minimize the potential for COVID-19 spread. “Stay with Unit” ensures incarcerated individuals participate in facility activities, including any programming, yard time, and dining, only with others in their living unit. By providing living unit separation, better social distancing becomes possible and we minimize the potential for widespread outbreaks across entire facilities.
The following additional measures have been taken to protect those within the Oak Park Heights facility.
Masks: Cloth barrier have been distributed to staff and incarcerated people at all DOC facilities. Each person has been given instructions for how to care for the mask, how to put it on, and how to take it off safely. Staff are required to wear masks in the facility and inmates are required to wear them when outside his cell.
MFC-Oak Park Heights Health Services staff have N95 masks, and there are a limited number of N95s for corrections officers to use when escorting symptomatic inmates to isolation, or when packing up the property of a symptomatic inmate. The DOC follows Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for when and how personal protective equipment is used.
Co-Pays: We have waived all medical co-pays for the duration of the Governor’s declared emergency to ensure no one is discouraged from seeking care.
Protecting Staff and their Families: MCF-Oak Park Heights has implemented a number of measures to protect staff and their families. Similar to staff at health care facilities, staff have been provided guidance for steps to take to protect their families while they continue to come to work every day. Information has been distributed and is on posters at the facility for washing hands when they leave work, designating a door of their home just for them to enter and exit, changing clothes and showering when they get home, and avoiding sharing food, among other steps.
Hand washing stations: MCF-Oak Park Heights has installed new hand washing stations in the facility. Two handwashing sinks were installed in the lobby to the facility and the other hand washing station were installed at the loading dock. All individuals are required to wash their hands when entering and exiting the facility. Hand sanitizing stations were placed inside of each complex and the entrance/exit slider. Inmate restrooms and kitchenettes also have sinks to wash hands. All individuals (staff and inmates) are encouraged to wash their hands frequently throughout the day.
Screening: All staff are have their temperature taken and are screened on a daily basis for recent symptoms. If they have been symptomatic, a physician’s approval is required to return to work. All staff are provided with protective masks and are required to wear them.
Isolation Plans: MCF-Oak Park Heights has an isolation plan in place. Details include inmates who report or demonstrate respiratory symptoms and/or if Health Services become aware of a symptomatic inmate he will be isolated in his cell on isolation status as a “person under investigation” pending further assessment. If it is medically indicated that the inmate must remain on isolation status, a COVID-19 test will be obtained.
If the COVID-19 test is positive, the inmate will continue on isolation status for 14 days from the start of symptoms and must be symptom/fever free for 72 hours after that. Health Services staff will monitor and treat the inmate throughout the isolation status.
Phones: Inmates now receive two free five-minute phone calls per week in addition to the standard calls they could already purchase. Phone banks are sanitized with germicide or bleach and water by inmate janitor workers at least four times per day.
Video Visiting: Loved ones on the outside now receive one free 15-minute video call per week. Additional calls can be purchased at a reduced rate. The video visiting hours have been expanded, and each inmate can also sign up for an additional 15 minute video visit. Video Kiosks are sanitized with germicide or bleach and water by inmate janitor workers at least four times per day.
Showers and Bathrooms: Inmates still have access to showers and bathroom facilities as usual, with regular cleaning and disinfecting.
Recreation, Yard, and Courtyard Time: Outdoor recreation time is still occurring. Certain no-contact games are allowed, such as is playing catch, using exercise equipment, and lifting weights. Social distancing is monitored by Corrections Officers. Equipment is disinfected with inmate janitors and monitored by Corrections Officers. At this time a maximum of 30 inmates can be in the gym, which is half of the unit at a time.
Food Services: Inmates at MCF-Oak Park Heights have always eaten meals in their living units or their cells. Currently, the men come out to pick up their trays, eat in the units, and then return the trays when they are done. Inmates who receive a meal while they are working in the Canteen area receive their meal in the Canteen area and eat there while ensuring social distancing, which is monitored by Canteen staff, Corrections Officers, and Unit Supervisors.
Work: MCF-Oak Park Heights inmates are working all of their regular job assignments: kitchen workers, painters, canteen, inmate janitors, mentors, tutors, education workers, grounds crew and laundry workers practicing social distancing which is monitored by the incarcerated men, Corrections Officers and Unit Supervisors.
Medication: MCF-Oak Park Heights nursing staff deliver medication to inmates in each complex several times per day.
Mail and Emails: Inmates at Oak Park Heights can still send and receive mail and emails as they normally would.
Canteen: Items purchased from the inmate store are still being delivered to the living units.
Education: Oak Park Heights is providing inmates with distance learning. All inmates receive education packet in their cells. If they are in need of tutor assistance the incarcerated men are to receive tutoring at a table in the complex still using social distancing. If a teacher is needed, they will receive tutoring in the television room still adhering to social distancing. Only a limited number of staff is allowed in the complex at one time.
Treatment: Oak Park Height continues to provide small group and individual mental health treatment and interventions. Social distancing is maintained by Corrections Officers and Clinical Program Therapists.
Television: Inmates still have access to televisions—both in their room and in the common areas, with the appropriate social distancing, which is monitored by Corrections Officers.