During her Nov. 10 press conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds stated that all inmates that had previously tested negative where outbreaks had occurred would be retested to make sure they remained negative for the virus.
Following the retests, more than 700 inmates have now tested positive for the virus. As of Nov. 16, 734 inmates of the 961 total population have tested positive for the virus. The second round of testing added 244 more inmates.
Nov. 16, a second inmate was pronounced dead “likely due to complications related to COVID-19, according to an Iowa Department of Corrections press release. Strain, 59, was serving a 25-year sentence for sex abuse (second degree) which began on Nov. 3, 2010.
Reynolds said during her press conference that a majority of the inmates that had tested positive were scheduled to recover. As of Nov. 16, 478 inmates are labeled as recovered.
The virus remains an issue within the staff as well. As of Nov. 16, 65 of the staff members within the prison are recovered, up 45 from the previous week, while 54 were currently positive, up 3 from the previous week.
Leaders address outbreak
As part of a virtual roundtable posted to the Iowa Department of Correction YouTube Nov. 13, Iowa Department of Corrections Director Dr. Beth Skinner and Anamosa State Penitentiary Warden Jeremy Larson discussed the recent outbreaks.
Most inmates are getting ready to be transferred into the recovery process from the first round of testing. The massive tests occurred Nov. 3 after a couple of inmates showed symptoms and subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Iowa Department of Corrections Communications Director Overton said that each prison handles the virus differently based on the spread.
Skinner said she was in Anamosa Tuesday, Nov. 10, talking with staff and checking in with inmates.
“It’s really critical to get in on the ground,” she said.
As she spoke with people, Skinner said most were asymptomatic or mild symptoms-understand the restricted movements. Skinner called staff “heroes” and thanked the incarcerated individuals for their cooperation.
When cases were first discovered Oct. 29, Larson said there was no movement until they could figure out the extent of the spread and daily memos were delivered to inmates. The no movement, he said, was crucial to limit the exposure while it was determined what the extent of the spread was. During that time, letters were provided to inmates and o-mails were printed out so they could read letters from loved ones.
Once it was determined who was positive and the positives and negatives were separated, the prison moved to restricted movement, allowing for things like phone calls and showers, and prisoners moved in smaller cohorts to avoid cross-contamination. Anyone needing extra medical attention were monitored by the medical staff or sent elsewhere, if determined necessary.
“We’ve been talking about it for months,” Larson said of a possible outbreak plan and discussion with staff and inmates. “The communication and preparation have really helped us get through this.”
“It’s a very fluid situation,” Skinner said. “It wasn’t an if, it was a when.”
Larson said they are looking forward to more yard time and a more normal routine.
“I just want all the friends and loved ones of incarcerated individuals to know that we’re doing everything we can,” Larson said. “It really has been all hands-on deck.”
The penitentiary received extra staff as needed to address and were constantly checking in on inmates.
“No one is getting overlooked,” Larson said. “All the guys needs were being met.”
Skinner said what was happening was “not an anomaly,” as it’s something prisons across the state are dealing with. The department is consulting with staff and other experts and using best practices and encouraging everyone to take universal precautions, like washing hands and wearing personal protective equipment.