A couple of months ago, North Dakota State Corrections was dealing struggling to maintain operations due to the Delta variant of COVID-19. Today they are dealing with Omicron.

North Dakota Director of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Dave Krabbenhoft tells KX, “The difference is that the Omicron virus has made its way to North Dakota and we’re seeing that it is much easier to spread. We’re dealing with that now in all of our facilities, not just the one here in Bismarck ”

With continuous tests being done, 240 residents and about 100 staff members system-wide have tested positive. “We’re doing everything we can to mitigate the spread and control the spread; identify where we have it, and hopefully control it as best as we can, but we find it difficult to control because it’s easy to spread,” explains Krabbenhoft.

There is no vaccine mandate for staff or residents but about 80% of residents are vaccinated.

Krabbenhoft says keeping residents socially distanced has been a challenge so a mask mandate is being strictly enforced throughout the correctional system. “It’s hard to do when you’re in a congregant setting living with other folks–pretty much right on top of each other.”

Krabbenhoft says the corrections facility is finding ways to work around Omicron, such as cutting back on extracurricular activities.

“When we have a person or group of people test positive, the movement that’s within the facility
is affected, so the ability to continue programming always hits a bump in the road and we do
our best to get that back as quickly as we can.”

The outbreak in DOCR has had a direct chain reaction to county jails. “There’s an understanding of the challenges we’re all facing and we’re getting great cooperation from our partners in the county and we’re getting by as best we can.”

In-person visitation continues to be canceled until further notice to help mitigate the spread and to keep everyone safe.