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99 COVID-19 cases in MT prisons since late Sept.

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Locked Housing

Items for a shower kit at the high-security locked housing unit at the Montana State Prison.

Note: This story has been updated after the Montana State News Bureau learned the Department of Corrections' COVID-19 tracking page went without an update between September and December in 2021.

The Montana Department of Corrections reported 99 new COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff in its prison facilities across the state since late September.

Montana State Prison, the secure men's facility outside Deer Lodge, has seen 24 cases among inmates since Sept. 17. Twenty-two staff have also contracted the virus in that time, according to the state corrections department, which posts its COVID-19 testing results online. The facility has 1,600 beds.

Since Sept. 17, eight cases have also turned up in inmates at the Montana Women's Prison in Billings, along with six in Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility in Miles City and 14 in the Riverside Special Needs Unit in Boulder. Two staff at the women's prison have tested positive, along with 10 at Pine Hills and 13 at Riverside since that time.

The Montana Department of Corrections said in an email Wednesday  none of the new cases required any COVID-related hospitalizations of inmates.

"The department continues to rely upon guidance from the CDC related to the management of COVID-19 in correctional facilities. The department’s Health Services Bureau also consults with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and local health departments related to the mitigation of the virus," spokesperson Carolynn Bright said in an email.

The corrections department reopened facilities to visitors and volunteers last April, requiring each person to be screened before entry. Prison employees are encouraged to self-screen each day before their shift, the department said in September.

The omicron variant has emerged as what appears to be the most contagious strain of COVID-19 yet, although it also seems to be less lethal; 172 Montanans were hospitalized Wednesday and the state reported 9,613 active cases. The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff said Tuesday roughly 30 people, about one-third of people held in the county jail, have tested positive with COVID-19, along with four detention officers.

The tally in state prisons brings COVID-19 cases among inmates to 1,062 since the beginning of the pandemic; 319 staff have tested positive in that same time. Six inmates have died from COVID-19, the last death occurring in December 2020.

Montana State News Bureau
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