UPDATE: State announces outbreak of more than 140 Covid cases at Ontario prison

Snake River Correctional Institution outside Ontario. (FILE/The Enterprise)

UPDATE: State officials on Monday afternoon released updated case counts for Ontario prison.

The Snake River Correctional Institution is reporting 120 inmates infected with Covid and 21 employees. Another 125 inmates are in medical isolation as the rate of positive tests for inmates has reached 66%

The Oregon Health Authority on Monday, July 13, announced the cases, which include all Oregon residents, including employees and their families. The count does not include prison employees who live in Idaho. Their infections are reported to Idaho state authorities and not counted in Oregon.

As of July 9, the Oregon Department of Corrections reported 13 inmate and 15 employee Covid cases at Snake River from their 73 test results, a positive rate of 18%. The prison tests inmates who display symptoms.

Snake River Superintendent Brad Cain and Snake River’s employee union could not immediately be reached.

The Corrections Department believe the first case was brought by one of Snake River’s 900 employees, according to Jennifer Black, agency spokeswoman. Employees are screened for temperature and symptoms at the door, but an employee could have been asymptomatic.

The prison worker’s employee contract states that employees get free testing and paid time off if they are exposed to serious communicable diseases.

The Department of Corrections is testing all symptomatic inmates, and finding who has been in contact with those who tested positive, according to a department brief.

The prison’s infirmary can hold 10 patients, and employs 36 health service employees, who also work in other parts of the prison but who wear personal protective equipment, Black said.

Inmates who tested positive for Covid receive 24-hour care, with a hydration drip if necessary, three meals a day or a liquid nutrition drip, oxygenation checks, and medication, said Dan Dewsnup, Department of Corrections infectious disease specialist. The prison is finding overflow rooms.

Of the prison’s 2,743 inmates on July 1, 325 were over 61, which puts them at higher risk for Covid.  

The Corrections Department reported 2,195 inmates in quarantine. Inmates are placed in 80-person housing units with one other cellmate, and quarantine means they can’t all be in the dayroom at once, that visitors are restricted, and inmates are only transferred for life-saving measures.

The first employee tested positive April 23, and the first inmate July 1.

This story will be updated.


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