jex-11122020-nws-penitentiary-a01

An outbreak at the Anamosa State Penitentiary has seen half the inmate population at the prison test positive for COVID-19.

Anamosa

Including staff, more than 500 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, as of Nov. 9.

According to a Jones County Public Health press release Nov. 5, the number of positive cases for inmates would be added to Jones County’s number. The county as a whole had just reached 500 cases since the pandemic first started between Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.

Oct. 30, an Iowa Department of Corrections release had announced positive cases had been discovered in Anamosa State Penitentiary restricting movement and suspending video visits. After the positives were discovered, Iowa Department of Corrections Communications Director Cord Overton said in an Nov. 6 email, mass testing began.

“Whenever an inmate tests positive for COVID-19, staff call the inmate’s emergency contact to notify them,” Overton said. “While inmates are allowed out of their cells at least once per day, it can mean significant portions of their days spent in either their own cells, quarantine cells or medical isolation, depending on their current status. The security and medical staff at each institution are working diligently around the clock to protect the health and safety of those incarcerated.”

As of Nov. 9, the numbers of active positive cases in the prison included 490 current active cases among prisoners and 51 current positive cases in staff and 20 recovered staff members. According to the Iowa Department of Corrections website, the penitentiary currently holds 982 inmates, meaning half of the population has tested positive.

In a separate press release Nov. 9, the Iowa Department of Corrections reported the first inmate death related to COVID-19at Anamosa State Penitentiary. David Allen Streets was pronounced dead, “likely due to complications related to COVID-19 and multiple preexisting medical conditions.” Streets had been transferred to University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics. Streets was 70 years old and had been serving a life sentence for kidnapping in the first degree and murder in the first degree from Scott County. His sentence began June 11, 1981. The death is just the fifth COVID-related inmate death in the state.

When including positive inmates and recovered inmates, the 490 total most in the prison system when adding in recovered inmates. All Anamosa’s inmate cases are active. Anamosa is one of three facilities with more than 250 active cases as of Nov. 9, along with North Central and Clarinda.

The 71 total cases among staff are the most in the correctional system, and the 51 active cases are nearly half of the current 106 positives within correctional staff across the state.

“As the virus impacts some facility’s overall staffing levels, facilities may exercise predeveloped staffing plans to ensure safety of the institution can be maintained even when staffing levels are not ideal,” Overton said.

The department has seen an increase in the number of inmates testing positive for COVID-19 at multiple facilities recently, but most cases have been asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms.

“To-date, we have had over 1,200 inmates recover from the virus. In the past and currently, the vast majority of inmates have either been asymptomatic or had mild symptoms of COVID-19. Those that are experiencing more severe symptoms or are at a higher-risk of complications due to the virus are given extra medical observation to ensure that if hospital care becomes necessary, they receive this higher level of care as quickly as possible,” Overton said.

Overton said the department is working to prevent additional cases and mitigate it where cases have already been identified.

Update: Department of Corrections statistics now show 679 positive cases for inmates, nearly half of the current positives for inmates in the correctional system. There are currently 68 positive staff and 36 recovered staff as of Nov. 13. 

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