FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Just days after KRDO reported on a COVID-19 outbreak at the Fremont Correctional Facility, the number of cases has skyrocketed this week.
On Wednesday, there were 90 active COVID-19 cases reported at the facility in Fremont County, according to statistics provided by the state. On Thursday, that number jumped up to 258 -- 235 inmates and 23 staff members.
The Colorado Department of Corrections told KRDO that all inmates are being tested since one of them tested positive on October 6. Test results are still coming in, according to CDOC spokesperson Annie Skinner.
Although the exact cause of the outbreak is unknown, Skinner said it was likely caused by a staff member infected by the virus who showed no symptoms.
"The majority of (cases) have had no symptoms or mild symptoms," she said.
The Fremont Correctional Facility is currently under Phase III operations, meaning inmates who have tested positive are in quarantine and will remain in their cells unless they have to shower. Meals and medications are being delivered to the inmates in those quarantine areas. Skinner says inmates still have access to their personal property while in isolation.
A woman who said her husband is an inmate at the prison sent an email to KRDO NewsChannel 13 Friday. She declined an interview but expressed concern about the treatment of inmates and the DOC's handling of the situation.
The woman also claimed that the transfer of inmates from a facility in Buena Vista is the true cause of the outbreak.
Skinner denied those claims during a phone conversation with KRDO NewsChannel 13.
"It's going to take time to test everyone," she said. "I know that people are frustrated but we're doing what we can. We have to restrict everyone in order to contain the virus and isolate those who are infected."
The Fremont County Health Department was unavailable for comment Friday about whether the prison outbreak poses a risk to the general community, but on Saturday director Kayla Marler said the department would be proactive.
"Because of the prison staff testing positive, there is some risk to the community," she said. "Next week, we're going to announce plans to offer more testing and to offer it seven days a week. The testing will be available for people who do have symptoms or don't have symptoms."
Skinner canceled an on-camera interview with KRDO NewsChannel 13 Friday, but she provided some additional details about the outbreak.
What's being done to keep it under control? What's the protocol for everyone there during an outbreak?
The facility has moved into Phase III operations. All staff and inmates will continue to be tested regularly. The inmates have all been placed into cohorts based on the results of their test and their potential exposure. Creating these units helps to mitigate the potential spread of the virus. The inmates are currently restricted to their cells but will have access to all their personal property, can send and receive mail, and will be provided regular opportunities to shower. The department has required staff members and inmates to wear masks in public spaces for many months now. The facility will also be supplied with additional KN95 masks for staff and inmates.
The medical staff at the facility are regularly evaluating the inmates and closely monitoring those that are positive.
Is there a risk to the community from asymptomatic staff members who may have the virus?
Given that our staff provide essential services for the state, they are tested regularly, and just like in the community, if they test positive, they are asked to isolate at home.
Separate from the CDOC staff testing that is occurring on the Canyon Complex, the state is also working with Fremont County public health to expand their current 2 day week drive through testing (for symptomatic individuals only) to at least 14 days of testing for anyone who wants it. It is not for CDOC staff specifically, it is for anyone who wants a test.
How many at the FCF are in isolation and how many are in quarantine? Are just the positive inmates in lockdown, or is everyone at the FCF on lockdown?
All of the inmates at FCF are currently restricted to their cells while the testing protocols are implemented.
How do you respond to the wife of an inmate who says inmates are not being properly treated (not getting enough time out of cells, proper food, mental health care, etc?
The health and safety of our staff and the incarcerated population are our top priority. The inmates will continue to be provided regular meals in their cells and regular access to medical treatment. We continue to work with medical experts and public health officials to determine the appropriate course of action. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to review test results and will loosen restrictions regarding out of cell time as soon as it is possible to do so in a safe manner.