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State requires COVID-19 testing for department of corrections

This order is effective immediately, but the MDOC has until Sept. 8 to begin weekly testing.

MICHIGAN, USA — Just a day after the governor set new requirements for the testing of inmates, a new emergency order requires COVID-19 testing of Michigan Department of Corrections staff.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon signed off on an order Wednesday that requires weekly testing for staff members who work at facilities where COVID-19 cases are present. In addition, any new employees, anyone with symptoms and anyone who has been in contact with someone with the virus must also be tested. 

According to the order, prisons operated by MDOC must adopt testing protocols for anyone who works within the physical boundaries of the prison or comes into contact with prisoners while on the job.

“COVID-19 can spread quickly in congregate living settings,” said Director of MDHHS Robert Gordon. “Prison staff are the principal vector for COVID-19 to enter a prison facility. It is therefore imperative that they are regularly tested for COVID-19 to protect prisoners, the staff themselves, and their communities.”

Here are the requirements for MDOC staff from the order: 

  • Test all newly hired staff on their start date or in the 72 hours prior to start date.
  • Ensure any staff who are close contacts of someone with COVID-19 and/or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 receive a COVID-19 test. Follow MDHHS guidance on quarantine and transmission risk reduction for staff who are close contacts of someone with COVID-19 and/or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
  • In facilities with any positive case among prisoners or staff identified within the last 14 days, test on a weekly basis all staff scheduled to work that week until no positive cases among prisoners or staff have been identified within the last 14 days.
  • Exclude from work any employees who do not receive a test when required to get tested.
  • Previously confirmed COVID-19 positive cases need not be re-tested for 90 days after the initial positive test. 

This order is effective immediately, but the MDOC has until Sept. 8 to begin weekly testing. This order remains in effect until lifted.

Whitmer issued an executive order to require that prisons and jails take extra measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including testing at entry, transfer and release of any prisoner.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 18 the MDOC had 724 active cases across its 29 prisons; 68 inmates have died from the virus; 439 staff members have had the virus to date and three have died. 

RELATED: Coronavirus outbreak at Muskegon prison leads to 155 confirmed cases

The largest current outbreak is at Muskegon Correctional Facility where 607 prisoners, which is about half the facility's population, and 11 staff members have tested positive.

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