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Alaska News

Coronavirus outbreak in Alaska’s largest prison accelerates

A coronavirus outbreak at Alaska’s largest prison is accelerating, with 110 inmates testing positive for the virus as of Monday.

Goose Creek Correctional Center first reported coronavirus cases among inmates on Nov. 2, when the Alaska Department of Corrections announced that 22 inmates and five staff members tested positive.

By Monday, the number had grown to 110 positive inmates, according to DOC spokeswoman Sarah Gallagher. As of Monday, the prison, an hour west of Wasilla near Point McKenzie, housed a total of 1,317 pretrial and sentenced prisoners.

The Goose Creek outbreak began in one of the prison’s housing units, known as mods. Each houses 64 prisoners. With more than 100 infected, the outbreak seems to have expanded beyond a single housing unit.

“All inmates positive for COVID or those who are showing symptoms are isolated and monitored twice daily by DOC medical staff for any changes in symptoms,” Gallagher said. “Staff are required to wear masks in the facility, and inmates are strongly encouraged to do so. Each housing unit continues to operate as a “family unit” in order to minimize the risk of transmission between mods.”

All transfers in and out of the prison had been suspended, Gallagher said.

The DOC also reported positive clusters of cases in the general population at Fairbanks Correctional Center, a facility grappling with an ongoing outbreak that now numbers 104 cases. Anchorage Correctional Complex has two cases in its general population, and Wildwood Correctional Center in Kenai has one case, according to the DOC.

The DOC also acknowledged clusters of positive coronavirus cases in halfway houses run by contractors.

There are six cases at Clitheroe Treatment Center in Anchorage, six at the Cordova Center in Anchorage, and 16 at the Northstar Center in Fairbanks, according to the DOC. The department had not previously acknowledged virus cases in some of the halfway houses. Prisoners moving from a DOC facility to a halfway house are required to test before they transfer.

Inmates entering Alaska jails and prisons quarantine for 14 days before being moved into housing mods in the general population. There have been a total of 97 cases found within the “remand” population, the DOC said.

Numbers provided by the department about COVID-19 cases in Alaska facilities represent cases to date, and do not necessarily indicate active cases, according to Gallagher.

Despite the growing outbreaks, no prisoner has died, been hospitalized or required “higher-level medical care” yet, Gallagher said. Alaska has the seventh-lowest number of coronavirus cases among prisoners in the U.S., according to data compiled by The Marshall Project.

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