Colorado’s largest prison has state’s biggest outbreak

April 29, 2020 GMT

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s biggest prison has become the site of the state’s largest coronavirus outbreak, with 252 people testing positive as of Wednesday at the Sterling Correctional Facility.

Data updated weekly by the state health department shows that 241 inmates and 11 staff members have been confirmed to have COVID-19 at the prison with about 2,500 inmates on the state’s northeastern plains.

Four of the inmates have been hospitalized, Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Annie Skinner said.

The prison tested 472 inmates last week in order to isolate those who had the disease and minimize its spread.

Prisoners have been kept in quarantine in their cells since April 14. Meals are delivered and they are only allowed out to use restrooms and showers, according to the department.

Michelle Pemberton of the Northeast Colorado Health Department told The Denver Post that steps taken to protect prison staff have been effective so far.

She said Sterling Regional MedCenter has a surge plan in place but has had no unusual concern about the effects it might see as a result of the outbreak at the prison.

One inmate has tested positive at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex, Skinner said. The department has said the inmate recently arrived from Denver’s jail and was in quarantine when his infection was discovered.

The second-largest outbreak in the state involves the JBS USA beef plant in Greeley, where 245 cases and five deaths have been reported.

According to the weekly data, 80 people tested positive at the Leprino Foods cheese plant in Fort Morgan after the company decided to close the plant and test all of its nearly 400 employees. About half of those who tested positive did not have any symptoms, company spokeswoman Kimberly DeVigil said.

The company plans to resume partial operations at the plant over the weekend with workers who tested negative undergoing monitoring and targeted testing, she said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

In other developments:

— Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday about 3,000 people across the state are being tested for the coronavirus each day, and he hopes to ramp that up to 5,000 people a day in early May and 8,500 by the end of May, if needed.

“Supplies are limited, not just in Colorado, not just in America, across the globe, because everybody is trying to buy them and scale up,” he said.

Colorado has secured 100,000 tests from South Korea to be used in May, and the governor said the state should have 195,000 tests by the end of the month.

“We feel better talking about that now that we have the verbal commitment from the federal government for the delivery of additional supplies during the month of May and the timing for those. We feel a lot more confident,” he said.

Colorado has completed nearly 70,000 tests, prioritizing symptomatic workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that have experienced outbreaks.