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Wisconsin DOC temporarily halts in-person visits to adult facilities over COVID-19

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Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 2:23 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is temporarily suspending all in-person visits to adult facilities across the state starting Thursday as COVID-19 cases rise, which is fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The DOC explained visits will be held virtually and through phone calls for attorneys or professional visits. The agency is also holding off on entry for volunteers, contractors, maintenance, staff and other non-DOC employees.

DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said facilities have seen a sharp jump in positive COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant adds to the new cases.

“DOC has not seen any corresponding increase in serious illness among people in our care, likely due to a combination of the high vaccination rate in our facilities and evidence that this Omicron variant causes less severe disease,” Carr said. “However, we feel making these temporary changes is the best way to protect our staff, those in our care and the communities surrounding our institutions.”

As cases of Omicron are expected to rise, the DOC expects the case count in its facilities to also increase.

The exception to visitors not currently allowed in DOC facilities are emergency services, ongoing facility projects that are deemed necessary and religious volunteers. These groups will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test when they enter each center starting on Jan. 18 and must follow all institution COVID-19 policies.

Medical visits to off-site locations will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Transfers of inmates between institutions may also be adjusted or suspended based on the number of COVID-19 cases at each facility.

Officials will review these temporary changes in early February and reevaluate based on cases of the virus.

The department also plans to increase rapid testing of those participating in work release, project crews and off-site education, as these activities will continue. Educational, vocational and treatment programming conducted by DOC staff will also continue with proper COVID-19 precautions in place.

According to data from the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, 930 cases of the Omicron variant have been detected statewide of the viruses tested in the past 30 days. A quarter of the cases tested in December showed to be the Omicron variant.

There have been 1,027 cases detected overall of Omicron.

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