JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Four employees at a state-run prison in Juneau have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Monday.
No staff at other Department of Corrections facilities have tested positive, and no inmates within the system have tested positive, department spokeswoman Sarah Gallagher said by email.
Three recent cases in Juneau have involved staff from the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. Results from a fourth case came in as positive but given reporting protocols will show up in the state’s count Tuesday, according to the state health department.
For most people, the new 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.
As of Monday morning, the state had reported 277 total cases of COVID-19, and there have been eight COVID-19-related deaths.
Gallagher said since Thursday, when the department said it was notified of the first positive test of a Lemon Creek Correctional Center worker, 32 staff members at the facility have received tests. Staff will not be cleared to return until health officials give the OK, she said.
Megan Edge, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, said the state’s correctional system is overcrowded and understaffed. The organization has called on state officials to implement actions it says would reduce the number of people coming into the legal system as the state deals with the coronavirus. ACLU of Alaska also has called for steps it said would reduce the number of people incarcerated or supervised.
Edge said the organization would like to work with the Department of Corrections on issues related to the coronavirus.
Gallagher said the department has taken actions to help guard against the virus, including the screening of staff before shifts and adding questions related to COVID-19 to medical screenings given to inmates.
The department also is treating each housing unit as a “’family unit’ or household” and limiting interactions between them when possible, she said.