COVID-19 continuing to spread at Wash. state prison

Officials said four staff members and 16 inmates have tested positive for the novel coronavirus


By Cameron Probert
Tri-City Herald

PASCO, Wash. — Three more prisoners at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center north of Pasco have been diagnosed COVID-19.

The state Department of Corrections says 16 inmates have tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. And four staff members also have been diagnosed.

The outbreak has been growing at the Connell facility in Franklin County since before May 21, according to a report from the Office of Corrections Ombuds.

Corrections officials told the Herald they are testing inmates as they develop symptoms. Officials put the facility into a 10-day quarantine starting Tuesday, May 26, to slow the spread of the virus.

The medium-security and long-term minimum security facility in houses more than 2,400 inmates.

As of Friday, 11 inmates were transferred to Airway Heights Corrections Center for treatment.

Staff members who test positive for the virus are told to quarantine at home for 14 days.

The closure has shut down the Correctional Industries food factory until June 3. The factory provides packaged food for the entire prison system.

While the packaged food production has stopped, the kitchens at all of the facilities still are operating, and it won’t impact the prisoners receiving meals.

The textile factory continues to produce protective gowns to help hospitals across the state that were running low. The factory is operating at a lower capacity, though.

And no visitors are being allowed.

Tensions running high

During the May 21 visit by the state ombuds officials, some of the inmates reported “there was tension and frustration” at the prison.

Two days later a fight involving 16 inmates broke out in the medium security area of the prison about 6 p.m.

Corrections officers ordered the men to stop and got it under control.

However, three inmates had to be treated at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, said Lori Wonders, Coyote Ridge’s public information officer. The men have since beeen returned to the prison.

“The incident is under investigation and all medium security units are on restricted movement pending further investigation,” she said.

The disturbance was not related to COVID-19, Wonders said.

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©2020 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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