When Iowa Department of Corrections Director Beth Skinner appeared at Gov. Kim Reynolds press conference on Monday, there had only been three cases of COVID-19 discovered in the state’s prison system — one inmate and two staff members, all three at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC) in Coralville, better known as Oakdale Prison. As of Wednesday morning, 11 more prisoners and one more staff member at Oakdale have tested positive for the virus, according to IDOC’s COVID-19 page.
That brings the total number of confirmed cases of the virus in the Iowa prison system to 15 — 12 inmates and three staff members.
In a press release, IDOC said on Tuesday it began working with the Iowa Department of Public Health on “expanded investigatory testing” at Oakdale.
“The testing is initially focused on the inmates who came from county jails in the special intake quarantine unit at IMCC, where the first positive inmate case was located,” IDOC said.
The first inmate to test positive was a new admission at Oakdale from Henry County and was therefore already in quarantine when diagnosed with virus. Oakdale is holding all new arrivals in quarantine for 14 days so they can be observed for possible symptoms of COVID-19.
“The department intends to continue expanding testing of inmates and staff that have worked in specific areas at [Oakdale], primarily those involved in the intake process and quarantine units,” IDOC said. “Once these tests are completed, testing will expand to other areas of the facility. Inmates with positive test results will continue to be moved to medical isolation cells where staff use full PPE when required to have direct contact with these inmates.”
According to the department, Oakdale has “implemented a prison-wide restricted movement, and are currently conducting a deep-cleaning of the affected unit. Staff continue expanding their efforts to separate healthy inmates from those that have tested positive, while following procedures that mitigate the risk to themselves and inmates. This prison has also suspended all non-medical admissions and transfers at this time.”
A IDOC spokesperson told Little Village last month that Iowa’s state prisons have “robust policy and plans in place related to pandemic viruses.” County jails in both Johnson and Linn are making efforts to reduce the number of people they are holding and taking other precautions in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.