Alaska News

Goose Creek inmate tests positive for COVID-19; new cases confirmed in North Pole and Sitka

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An inmate at the Goose Creek Correctional Center tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday night, officials from the Department of Corrections said.

This is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in an inmate, although there are other inmates still awaiting test results, according to a statement from the department. Four inmates have been tested at Goose Creek Correctional Center, and the department said one test was negative while two are pending. Inmates with pending tests are in isolation, according to department spokeswoman Sarah Gallagher.

Staff and inmates were notified of the positive case late Saturday night, officials said. It was confirmed around 9 p.m.

The department and staff at Goose Creek Correctional Facility are working with state epidemiologists to establish a contact investigation. The inmate has been in isolation since April 19 and was tested that day.

As of Friday, Gallagher said there were 1,220 inmates at the medium-security prison.

“Goose Creek has adequate space to isolate individuals, however should the need arise – we will work with the state epi team and expand as recommended. The institution has a capacity of 1472,” Gallagher said over email.

Statewide, 63 inmates have been tested for COVID-19. Eight tests are still pending and 54 inmates have tested negative for the virus, the statement said.

Earlier this month, six correctional officers at Juneau’s Lemon Creek Correctional Facility tested positive for COVID-19 and one staff member tested positive at Anchorage’s McLaughlin Youth Correctional Center.

The Department of Corrections took additional steps last month to prevent COVID-19 from entering a correctional facility. Staff members undergo temperature checks prior to each shift and inmates are screened prior to transfers, according to a statement from the department. In-person visits were canceled and facilities halted all non-essential activities.

Prisons present challenges because they are “by nature, congregate settings,” the statement said. Across the country, 799 federal inmates and 319 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 at 62 facilities as of April 24, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Twenty-seven inmates died after contracting the virus.

[Alaska state jails and prisons stop visits to limit coronavirus spread. Critics say that doesn’t go far enough.]

Attorney General William Barr noted last month that low-level offenders who have underlying health conditions or are more vulnerable to COVID-19 may be released for at-home monitoring.

[Alaska Supreme Court orders sweeping changes to how the courts run during the coronavirus pandemic]

Here's a video update from Dr. Anne Zink on cases from the weekend. Saturday, 4/25 - No cases reported from Friday. ZERO! Great news. Sunday, 4/26 - Two new cases reported from Saturday (one in a long-term care facility in Sitka and another in North Pole). The DHSS press release from today also noted that there is a new case from Goose Creek Correctional Facility that will be included in tomorrow's case count. The Department of Corrections (DOC) also issued a press release. Thanks to DOC, the Section of Epidemiology and Public Health Nursing for their swift action today implementing testing at the facility and conducting the investigation and contact tracing. As always if you have questions: covidquestions@alaska.gov

Posted by Alaska Health and Social Services on Sunday, April 26, 2020

There have been 341 confirmed COVID-19 cases throughout Alaska, including two cases announced Sunday. The Department of Health and Social Services announced a resident at a Sitka long-term care facility tested positive for the virus and one person in North Pole was also confirmed to have COVID-19.

It’s the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Sitka. City and Borough officials said the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Sitka Long-Term Care resident was immediately isolated and transferred to Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center.

As of Sunday, 217 Alaskans are known to have recovered from the virus and nine have died.

Although the Department of Corrections announced the inmate had tested positive Sunday, the case will be included in the count of new cases announced Monday.

COVID-19 cases in Alaska

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Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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