The state has begun coronavirus surveillance testing among Missouri’s prison workers and inmates. During Tuesday’s press conference with Gov. Parson in Jefferson City, Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe says Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston and South-Central Correctional Center in Licking are in the first phase.
“In order to resume some sense of normalcy in Corrections, which includes things like inmate transfers and family visitation, it is incumbent upon us to participate in sentinel testing,” says Precythe. “This is important to both the governor and me. We now have the necessary number of supplies to be able to meet the needs for testing our entire Division of Adult Institutions staff and offender population, which is approximately 32,000 people.”
The women’s prison in northwest Missouri’s Chillicothe and Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City will be in phase two.
Forty-five inmates and 27 workers, mostly at Southeast Correctional Center, have tested positive for the coronavirus. One inmate previously at the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Joseph died at a Kansas City hospital from complications brought on by COVID-19.
The state has 22 adult prisons. Intake centers are at the prisons in southeast Missouri’s Bonne Terre, mid-Missouri’s Fulton, northwest Missouri’s St. Joseph and northeast Missouri’s Vandalia for women. Precythe says the department will refine its method along the way to continue testing at other prisons.
“This pandemic has repeatedly caused us to say ‘We don’t know what we don’t know’. But the only way to know for sure is to do testing,” says Precythe. “I want staff to know with confidence if they are negative and I believe this approach will begin to give people confidence as they not only come to work but as they go home to their families.”
The agency has not mapped out a timeline to complete testing within all prisons. DOC spokesperson Karen Pojmann tells Missourinet the details are still being worked out and will be developed based upon how things go in the initial phases.
Missouri National Guard medics are helping with the testing.
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