xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Mass testing at Connecticut prisons identifies another 832 COVID-19 cases, almost all asymptomatic, DOC says

Mass coronavirus testing at Connecticut’s prisons has identified another 832 positive cases of COVID-19 among those incarcerated over the past six weeks, all but two of whom were asymptomatic, underscoring how widely the virus can spread without any visible trace.

The new results indicate that a total of 1,342 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic began out of the about 10,000 total inmates across 14 Department of Corrections facilities, according to data provided Monday afternoon.

Advertisement

Seven inmates have died, according to the DOC.

The department began mass testing inmates and staff in mid-May as it grappled with the spread of the coronavirus in its close-quarters and in many cases communal facilities.

Advertisement

Since then more than 9,500 inmates have been tested, identifying 830 positive cases in which the inmates showed no symptoms of the virus at all and never developed symptoms during a 14-day quarantine period, according to the DOC.

Two tested positive and have presented symptoms during the first round of mass testing and, as of Monday, only three inmates total are still recovering from the virus, the department said.

Testing was not required for inmates but more than 90 percent of inmates participated at almost every facility but Osborne Correctional Institute, where more than 400 opted out of tests, officials said. DOC health care staff are returning this week to those inmates who opted out to offer tests again.

Testing of DOC staff is still underway this week and of the 593 who have been tested since mid-May, only one tested positive for COVID-19.

Before mass testing began, almost 380 of the 6,000 DOC staff members tested positive for the virus and all but three of them have since returned to work safely, according to DOC officials. The three still recovering are expected to return to work “within the next few weeks,” according to a statement.

It has been more than a month since a staff member tested positive, officials said. The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and Office of Labor Relations also have reached a new agreement to mandate testing for staff who have direct contact with inmates going forward.

No offenders at the Manson Youth Institution or the female-only York Correctional have tested positive for the virus. Only one person at the Garner Correctional Institution, which houses inmates with acute mental health needs, has tested positive and that person was asymptomatic, according to the DOC.

Connecticut’s prison facilities were among the earliest and hardest hit in the state, prompting a lawsuit from several inmates and a group of defense attorneys with the ACLU of Connecticut demanding increased sanitation and quarantine procedures in addition to the release of many prisoners. The ACLU and state settled that lawsuit in early June, codifying enhanced health and safety procedures for the pandemic.

DOC officials have touted a sharp decrease in the total prison population since the pandemic began -- more than 2,400 since March. The department expects this week to reach half of its all-time population high of 19,894, which was recorded on Feb. 1, 2008.

Interim Commissioner Angel Quiros lauded the department’s response Monday. Quiros became interim commissioner two weeks ago when Commissioner Rollin Cook abruptly announced his retirement so he could return to his family in Utah, his home state and where they have stayed throughout the pandemic.

“Having spent more than 30 years with the Department of Correction, I was here when the population ballooned and now I am seeing it shrink like never before. In short, I have learned to expect the unexpected,” Quiros said. “As we continue to manage and prepare for future obstacles related to the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing that I am certain of is the ability of the agency’s amazing staff to adapt to, and overcome any future challenges.”

Zach Murdock can be reached at zmurdock@courant.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement