LIMA — Nearly two dozen residents and 11 staff members at the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Habilitation Center have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past six weeks, and one staff member there has died from the coronavirus.
Brent Burk, director of the WORTH Center, said earlier this week the correctional facility reduced its resident population and is continuing to limit one-on-one contact with counselors and instructors as the pandemic continues to maintain its grip on the center.
He said to date there have been 23 confirmed positive tests among residents at the facility, with the majority of those being females.
Burk confirmed the death of one staff member as a result of COVID-19, but said the female employee had been working remotely from home for several weeks prior to her death. It is uncertain when or where she contracted the virus, Burk noted.
He also attempted to set the record straight on a circulating rumor that kitchen staff at the center had walked off the job amid rising numbers of positive COVID-19 test results.
“No, our kitchen staff is still working. There was a kitchen employee who was terminated by the company we contract with. She was dismissed for confirmed allegations that she wasn’t using appropriate boundaries with residents as outlined in our contract,” Burk said.
In mid-November Burk said eight staff members and 13 residents at the facility had tested positive for the coronavirus and had been segregated from the general population. Burk at that time said the facility has beds for 100 residents but had been operating at roughly 80% capacity through mid-November. This week that occupancy rate has been reduced to 60%, the director said.
A freeze on the center’s acceptance of new residents is currently in place in light of the uptick in positive COVID-19 test results.
Burk said the Allen County Health Department in recent weeks has assisted the facility in obtaining Personal Protection Equipment, or PPE. All staff members at the site are currently wearing N95 face masks, medical gloves and face shields.
“People are working well together during a pandemic the likes of which none of us have ever been through,” Burk said. “We’re just following health department guidelines. It’s been rough, but this is what we do.”
Residents at the WORTH Center are sentenced by area courts to stays of up to six months at the community-based corrections facility. The center is an alternative to prison, where residents are required to take part in programming with an emphasis on treatment as part of their sentence.