The state Department of Corrections suspended visits to Oregon Correctional Center to curb the spread of COVID-19 among inmates Friday, March 13.

A Friday press release from the DOC said all visits, including those by volunteers are suspended with the decisions being re-evaluated on a daily basis.

The release stated visits by professionals would continue as necessary, but phone and video calls will be used where possible as a precaution.

“DOC understands that this will greatly impact persons under our care and their families,” the release said. “We will be actively looking into expanding the methods of communication we use during the time visits are suspended.”

According to a presentation by Anne C. Spaulding, a professor of epidemiology at Emory University, to the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, correctional centers like the one in Oregon are at special risk of a coronavirus outbreaks.

“Incarcerated persons sleep in close quarters, eat together, and recreate in small spaces ... Staff are close by,” Spaulding stated in the March 13 presentation. “Both those incarcerated and those who watch over them are at risk for airborne infections.”

Spaulding compared the prison situation to those on cruise ships, such as the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan in January. Seven hundred people were became infected with the COVID-19 virus on the ship, and seven died.

Emilie Heidemann joined Unified Newspaper Group in 2018, where she serves as the community and business editor for four publications, as well as a quarterly magazine. Emilie covers the Village of Oregon and Fitchburg community beat.