The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry (ADCRR) has reported two inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
Officials say, an inmate has been hospitalized at a community hospital since March 27 with several non-coronavirus related symptoms. While in the hospital they contracted the virus after receiving two negative results and then a positive, and is now receiving medical care at the same facility.
The second inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 is at the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility, officials say. The inmate is now being treated at the facility.
This comes after three employees tested positive for COVID-19 or are presumptive positives. The prison employees tested positive for COVID-19, while a fraction of sick inmates had not been tested.
Currently, there are over 42,000 ADCRR inmates, and only 60 have been tested. Of those, 48 came back negative and 10 are pending with the other two positive tests.
"Consistent with CDC guidance and ADCRR Infectious Disease Protocols, we continue to separate any inmates who exhibit flu-like symptoms from the general population, for monitoring and appropriate follow-up care. Like many correctional systems nationwide, the department has experience managing infectious diseases at its facilities and is taking proactive measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the inmate population. Following CDC guidelines, ADCRR also continues to communicate with staff and inmates about how they can reduce the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19."
The Department says they will provide regular updates on ongoing efforts, and information on positive test results of COVID-19 in the facilities.
But lawmakers and advocates believe that more needs to be done and that department leaders aren’t taking the threat seriously enough.
“I have to say, I was not filled with confidence,” said Rep. Kirsten Engel, who spoke with Director David Shinn this weekend. “They are not taking measures to go back and look at who those officers may have had contact with.”
Officers who fail entrance health screenings are only required to be symptom-free for three days, according to Engel.
“They seem to be overly optimistic and they also appear to be doing the bare minimum,” she said.
On Tuesday, a dozen legal and advocacy organizations sent a letter to the Arizona Department of Health Services demanding that the agency immediately inspect prisons to make sure CDC guidelines are being followed.
The letter cast doubt on ADCRR’s claims based on inmate correspondence, calls from family members, and media reports, including ABC15’s ongoing coverage.
The Governor also spoke on Tuesday regarding the state prison system.
“We are going to ramp up testing for inmates inside our prisons so we can do the appropriate action of removing them from the general population,” Doug Ducey said.
Ducey added that he will not release any prisoners like some other states and the federal government.