By Brooke Kaufman
In early April 2022, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) reported the largest COVID-19 outbreak seen in its prisons since the pandemic began over two years earlier. At Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, 20% of its 1,800 prisoners had tested positive for the disease in the previous 30 days.
The prison has been holding over 20% fewer prisoners than its designed capacity of 2,300 for months. According to NBC Right Now, the outbreak affected the A, B, D, and E units, which were moved to “limited-area cluster” status. That means unit staffs are now required to be tested for COVID-19 at least twice a week. The F unit and A Unit 1 Tier were also placed on medical-isolation status.
The situation at the prison had improved somewhat by May 9, 2022, when there were no active cases of the disease reported among prisoners or staff, according to a Covid-19 Dashboard maintained by DOC. But another outbreak at Stafford Creek Corrections Center had by then sickened 137 prisoners there in the previous month. That pushed the two-month total of new infections over 350 at just those two prisons.
With another 15 new cases at the Washington Corrections Center, six at Monroe Correctional Complex, three at the Washington Corrections Center for Women and four at Airway Heights Correction Center, DOC had counted 165 new prisoner cases in the month since April 9, 2022.
Over the course of the pandemic, DOC has recorded 13,892 infections among prisoners and 17 deaths. Staff infections have totaled 4,302 with four deaths. The highest case total has occurred at Airway Heights Correction Center, with 2,951 prisoner infections. Just below that was the Washington Corrections Center and Washington State Penitentiary, which have recorded 2,260 and 2,188 total prisoner cases, respectively.
Washington State Penitentiary has also suffered DOC’s highest case total among staff, recording 694 positive tests for COVID-19.
No one on work release or part of the community medical center or community work crew has died of COVID-19 during the pandemic. In fact no one held by DOC has died from the disease since November 26, 2021, reflecting the less-lethal nature of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Sources: KNDO, Seattle Times
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