At least five Arizona prison inmates assigned to live and work onsite at the well-known Hickman’s Family egg farm have tested positive for coronavirus.
The Arizona Deparment of Corrections confirmed there are five known COVID-19 cases to ABC15 in an email Tuesday.
A spokesperson said the remaining inmates who live at the farm were "retested" Tuesday.
“The inmates are on top of each other, literally, they’re in each others grills," said Carlos Garcia, executive director of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association, who first confirmed the cases to ABC15. “If these inmates had it, they’ve all been exposed. They may not be infected, but they’ve all been exposed.”
Friends of inmates imprisoned at the farm have also contacted ABC15 in recent days about COVID-19 cases and concerns about the level of precautions being taken to keep the women assigned to the work crew safe.
Hickman’s Family Farm has not yet returned emails for comment.
A message sent to the county email address of Clint Hickman, vice president of the farm and a Maricopa County Supervisor, was answered by his chief of staff.
“You have emailed Mr. Hickman’s government email. This topic isn’t a part of the county’s responsibility. In the future, please don’t use his government email address if you have questions about his family business. You need to reach out to the Department of Corrections regarding DOC inmates.”
In late March, due to coronavirus concerns, corrections officials announced they would suspend outside prison work crews with the exception of Hickman’s Family Farms.
The department announced that 140 women from Perryville prison would be housed at the farm to perform “essential” work.
Hickman’s Family Farm has used Arizona prison labor for 25 years.
"Many of these women inmates perform critical tasks related to the raising of baby chicks. Besides daily care, they also perform most of the tasks of vaccination,” said Glenn Hickman, President of Hickman’s Family Farm, in a statement in March.
“Their proper care today ensures an uninterrupted food supply tomorrow. It has been our family’s privilege to help thousands of inmates learn life skills that keep them productive members of society, well after they leave this program.”
The Arizona Department of Corrections released a statement regarding the new COVID cases.
"Initially one inmate was symptomatic. She was removed and tested. The rest of the inmates were then tested, resulting in an additional 5 testing positive. The inmates who tested positive were removed and isolated and are being medically monitored. All remaining inmates have been retested today and will be cohorted for an additional 14 days with no new inmates being moved in or out until the latest test results are returned and each is medically cleared."
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.