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DOC completes COVID-19 testing for all inmates, staff in Wisconsin prison system

Only nine positive COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday.

A model of the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019. U.S. health officials have stated that COVID-19 is expected to become a significant public health concern in the United States. (Illustration courtesy of Centers for Disease Control)
Contributed / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The state Department of Corrections said Monday, July 20, it had completed testing all inmates and staff in the state's 37 prison facilities for COVID-19.

With the help of the Wisconsin National Guard, DOC administered 24,395 tests for COVID-19 among inmates, finding 296 prisoners who tested positive for the virus.

DOC usually has around 22,000 inmates in custody, but the number fluctuates as individuals are sentenced to prison or released after completing their sentence. The mass testing initiative started May 12.

Of those who tested positive, the vast majority — 285 inmates — have recovered. Only nine positive COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday. Two inmates who tested positive were released from custody.

Most of the positive cases were at Waupun Correctional Institution, which saw an outbreak of 230 cases among prisoners. Fifteen other facilities had positive cases, most with only a handful and some with only one positive case.


Among staff, 95 employees tested positive, with 12 active cases and 83 people recovered.

"We wish the numbers were even lower, but the relatively small number of active cases is a testament to the leadership of our Emergency Operations Command team and the work of staff in our facilities to protect the persons in our care," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said in a statement.

DOC said it will continue working with the National Guard and Department of Health Services to conduct testing. A second round of testing for staff will begin this week, with priority given to facilities that have high levels of COVID-19 in the community or many positive cases during the first round of testing.

DOC continues to test inmates who have symptoms or were exposed to someone with COVID-19, the department said. Prisoners are also tested at intake, transfer and release.


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