COVID-19 outbreak reported at South Dakota women’s prison

September 18, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — More than 100 inmates have tested positive at a minimum-security women’s prison in Pierre, according to the Department of Corrections.

Mass testing of inmates resulted in the Department of Corrections found 102 active cases at a women’s prison called the Pierre Community Work Center, according to an update released late Wednesday. There were 140 women held at the prison, according to an Aug. 31 count. Four staff members have also tested positive, with one fully recovered.

Michael Winder, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said in an emailed statement that the prison has placed people with infections into isolation. He said all inmates are required to wear masks and staff at the prison are taking extra precautions for hand washing and sanitizing.


Winder said in a statement sent later Thursday that the Department of Corrections has moved women who did not test positive for COVID-19 to a nearby prison, leaving only the 102 with active infections.

Inmates in Pierre are not allowed to leave the prison for work release or service projects, according to Winder. The prison has also shut down visitations, programs and contact with any volunteers. The prison does provide some access to tablets for phone calls and messaging.

The outbreak at the prison contributed to state health officials reporting one of the highest one-day tallies for new cases on Thursday, with 395 people testing positive statewide. Officials also reported the death of a woman in her 60s from COVID-19, bringing the state’s toll to 193.

The rolling average number of daily new cases statewide has decreased over the last two weeks by nearly 102. But South Dakota still ranked second in the country for the most new cases per capita during that time with roughly 373 per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins researchers.

The seven-day average positivity for tests is roughly 15%, an indicator that there could be more infections than tests are showing, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The number of new unemployment filed in the state has significantly decreased, according to the latest information from the state’s Department of Labor and Regulation. A total of 346 new claims for unemployment benefits were processed between Sept. 6 and 12. A total of 6,511 people in South Dakota were receiving unemployment when the U.S. Employment and Training Administration released the last count on Sept. 5.