Cord Overton, the communications director for the Iowa Department of Corrections, says once active cases were identified, mass testing was done at prisons in Anamosa, Clarinda and Rockwell City.
“Because we know how fast the virus can spread in these communal-type settings,” Overton says.
The worst outbreak is at the Rockwell City facility, where 60 percent of inmates have Covid according to data on the Iowa Department of Corrections website. Half of the prisoners in Anamosa have the virus. Covid positive prisoners are separated from the rest of the inmates.
“You get them into medical isolation as we call it where they can be monitored, given extra supplies while they recover from the virus and then we can also contact trace anybody they had contact with to make sure we’re putting them in quarantine, so that even if they aren’t positive now,” Overton says “but they are possibly incubating the virus, they’re not out with the rest of the general population possibly contaminating more inmates.”
Overton says by the time someone shows symptoms, they may have spread the virus inside a prison for several days, so tracing that persons contacts within the facility is key.
“It’s more important to us to find others that could be infected so we can get them removed from the general population than trying to isolate down to the one place of entry it came from,” Overton says.
The Iowa Department of Corrections website shows 41.5 percent of inmates in the Clarinda prison have Covid. Overton says more testing will be done this week. The 106 staff in the department who currently have Covid are all at home recovering, according to Overton.
(Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah contributed to this story.)