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COVID-19 cases jump at Missouri women’s prison

COVID-19 cases jump at Missouri women’s prison

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JEFFERSON CITY — Two dozen inmates and five employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at a prison for women in western Missouri.

The Chillicothe Correctional Center is the latest facility operated by the Missouri Department of Corrections to see a significant jump in cases of the disease following mass testing within the system.

The presence of the coronavirus at the prison came to light on July 1 when three cases were confirmed, triggering a cancellation of visiting sessions.

The outbreak at the women’s facility comes a week after Farmington Correctional Center reported a surge in cases.

According to the latest department tally, Farmington now has 60 inmates and six employees who tested positive.

Other prisons with double-digit cases include facilities in Bonne Terre, Charleston, Vandalia and St. Joseph.

Six prisons have no cases among inmates and staff, but the department has not started testing in those facilities.

The department says 14,641 of more than 24,000 inmates currently behind bars have been tested.

Offenders who test positive are isolated until they test negative. Staff who test positive are sent home on leave and must test negative twice before returning to work. All staff who have close contact with a positive are sent home for two weeks of quarantine.

Department spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said officials have reconfigured housing at each of the state's 20 prisons to isolate inmates who have the disease.

“Because we are in the midst of a pandemic, we also must ensure that each facility has separate housing available for COVID-19 containment. Providing quarantine housing and isolation units is essential to ensuring that offenders who test positive for the virus don’t spread it to other people living or working in the facility,” Pojmann said.

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