One of the populations most at risk for contracting COVID-19 is prison inmates. The cramped living spaces combined with substandard conditions have made it difficult to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Prisons across the country have been dealing with rising numbers of COVID-19 and the situation is no different in Michigan.
The Detroit Free Press reports that of the 773 new COVID-19 cases reported in the state on Monday, 612 of them were found at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility. The uptick came after the Michigan Department of Corrections and Michigan National Guard administered a wave of mass testing on May 12. Of the 612 cases, the majority of them were asymptomatic.
“The prisoners had no idea they were asymptomatic. This speaks to the danger of this virus.” Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the MDOC told the Free Press.
The MDOC and Michigan National Guard partnered up in an effort to test all 37,000 prisoners in the state. The increase in new cases has brought the overall total inside the prison up to 716. 31 staff members at the prison have tested positive for the disease as well. So far, two prisoners have died from complications due to COVID-19, the Free Press reports.
While other prisons in the state have begun transferring prisoners who test positive to Robert Cotton Correctional Facility and Carson City Correctional Facility, the sheer amount of cases in Gus Harrison has made moving prisoners unrealistic. Instead, they have begun to isolate those who test positive into wings of the prison separate from the general population.
Staff members who have to work in these wings are provided personal protection suits, N95 masks and gear to protect their eyes. Voluntary testing will be provided to staff members this week. So far, a fifth of the 500 employees who work at Gus Harrison have notified officials they would like to be tested.