STERLING, Colo. — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Sterling Correctional Facility grew to 238 as of Tuesday. It appears to be Colorado’s largest outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
A Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) spokesperson said they have tested 472 inmates -- the same total as of late last week, which means the additional positives are a product of more results, and not necessarily that the number of infections grew.
Last Wednesday, eight inmates had tested positive. With the implementation of prevalence testing, the number grew to 138 by Friday.
>The video above is from April 24 when we spoke with a family member of an inmate
In an interview with Next with Kyle Clark that same day, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) did not say if he has considered early releases for Sterling inmates. He did say prisons have added new protocols to manage the spread of COVID-19.
Inmates and guards have been given masks, and inmates who have tested positive are isolated.
“This was expected," Polis said. "It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when. This has happened across the entire country.
“[Inmates who test positive] are immediately being isolated, and then we are additionally putting entire cell blocks on essentially lockdowns where there’s no transfers in or out because COVID is present.”
WATCH | Full interview with Gov. Polis
The tested inmates live in several different units on the east side of the facility.
"I feel we moved very rapidly, to be honest with you,” Dean Williams, the CDOC executive director, said last week. "Once we found out we had two people, I moved very quickly with the state [emergency operations center], and we developed a plan to do the 473 tests that we did just recently."
Polis said that early steps were taken system-wide by limiting transfers. While more prisons likely have cases, the governor said he doesn’t suspect every facility in Colorado has an outbreak.
“We did take early steps to reduce the transfers during this period," Polis said. "It got in, no surprise to many facilities. I wouldn’t say it’s every jail or prison in the state. There’s some that have likely successfully been able to keep it out. But it is no surprise, that because of the prison guards and the transfers, that it’s in one of our large facilities in Sterling."
The governor added that, like other Coloradans, most inmates will recover without significant medical treatment.
Four of the inmates who tested positive are hospitalized, the CDOC told 9NEWS.
Other well-known outbreaks in Colorado have occurred in long-term care facilities and at the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley.
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