Press Release (ePRNews.com) - RALEIGH, N.C. - Apr 24, 2020 - State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, and State Health Plan (Plan) Director Dee Jones announced today that they have secured more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests at Mako Medical and Mako Medical Laboratories in Raleigh. The FDA-approved tests will be used to test more than 16,000 corrections officers and other employees at the state’s 56 correctional institutions over the next few weeks.
The largest concentrations of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina have occurred in the state’s prisons. Johnston Correctional Institution has been closed since earlier this week, with inmates transferred to other facilities and corrections personnel shifted to Neuse Correctional Facility (NCF). NCF has reported 458 virus cases among the 767 inmates in just the last three weeks, representing over half of the people incarcerated at that facility. Tensions are high among North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) employees and inmates at the Goldsboro facility and the other 54 facilities like it across North Carolina.
Health care experts point out that prisons are breeding grounds for viruses including COVID-19. Additionally, many prisons are located in rural areas, increasing the potential to spread the virus to less densely populated areas of the state not yet so hard hit by the pandemic.
While all employees and inmates at the NCF are being tested, there have been no plans for wider testing for the remaining 13,000-plus DPS employees across the state.
“When faced with anxiety and uncertainty in life, there’s only one way out – to give more. These officers are doing that and now it’s our time,” said Treasurer Folwell. “Over the last three years as State Treasurer, the last thing I wanted is for these officers to worry about their pension and health care; now we want to remove their anxiety and stress of not knowing whether they are COVID-19 positive.”
Mako Medical recently announced expanded capacity with its COVID-19 testing. This increased capacity will allow it to meet the needs of these employees for the State of North Carolina. Mako Medical Laboratories is currently providing testing to several other states and recently began development on an antibody test that will help detect if someone has already contracted the virus. Mako Medical Laboratories plans to have this test ready in the next week.
SEANC (State Employees Association of North Carolina) reached out to Treasurer Folwell and the State Health Plan staff for a solution, and they were able to move mountains to make this happen. “There have been points and times in history where people looked back and said, ‘Why didn’t somebody do something?’” added Treasurer Folwell. “We can’t let the perfect get in the way of the possible. We don’t intend to look back and say, ‘Why didn’t we do something when we could?’”