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Six inmates at St. Louis workhouse test positive for COVID-19

Six inmates at St. Louis workhouse test positive for COVID-19

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ST. LOUIS — Six of the 92 people detained at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution have tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said Wednesday.

The positive cases come amid an ongoing campaign by activists to close the jail at 7600 Hall Street informally known as the workhouse.

“We have completed testing of more than 90 detainees at MSI,” said Jacob Long, Krewson’s spokesman. “Only six have tested positive and are under quarantine with access to accredited health care and medical services. In all, only 14 detainees are quarantined, per (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) protocols.”

No jail staff have tested positive, Long said.

“Considering the pandemic hit St. Louis nearly four months ago, and jails across the country have spent that entire time combating massive outbreaks, and the fact that we are just now getting a few cases,” he said, “we believe this demonstrates that the proactive, preventative measures we implemented early on across both jails continue to be effective at protecting the health and safety of all detainees and staff.”

Inez Bordeaux, a staffer with Arch City Defenders who has helped lead recent protests to close the workhouse, said she’s “honestly surprised the number isn’t higher” than six.

“We’ve been demanding a plan and the mayor has yet to put a plan out,” Bordeaux said Wednesday. “We knew that once COVID got into the jail it would spread like wildfire. Now that we know there are multiple confirmed cases inside of the jail, our questions are still the same. What is the plan? There has been an embarrassing lack of transparency from this administration.”

The 2021 city budget, which took effect Wednesday, includes $8 million in funding for the workhouse. On Monday, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed announced he’ll introduce bills that would require corrections officials to prepare a plan to shut down the workhouse.

The jail is equipped to hold 436 prisoners.

Last week, as protesters renewed their calls to close the workhouse outside City Hall, Krewson in a Facebook Live briefing read the names and addresses of several protesters who had provided suggestions for redirecting funding.

Krewson later apologized for airing the addresses but the action drew a protest Sunday outside her home as well as a petition drive demanding her resignation.

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