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Another Prison COVID Outbreak; Hundreds Of Inmates Test Positive At Vinita Facility

Chris Polansky
Mark Connell of Tulsa protests outside Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, where almost the entire inmate population has contracted COVID-19, on Friday, Sept. 11.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Monday another major coronavirus outbreak at one of its facilities, a prison for men in Vinita.

As of Tuesday morning, the DOC website reported 206 inmates at the minimum-security Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center had tested positive. The prison held 416 men as of Monday.

The agency also reported two additional deaths possibly caused by COVID-19: one man at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, and one man at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center, both in Lexington.

The Joseph Swan inmate "was admitted to the hospital for virus-related symptoms in mid-August and died September 3," according to a DOC statement. "His death was the first possibly related to the virus. ODOC did not originally include his death due to his numerous comorbidities. However, the agency is adding his death in the spirit of full transparency. As with the other inmate deaths, the medical examiner will determine cause."

As of Monday, DOC reported a cumulative total of 1,987 confirmed positive cases in its incarcerated population statewide over the course of the pandemic. The agency also reported a total of 238 cumulative infections in staff, though staff are not required to be tested and that count is based solely on self-reporting from staff. Employees are not required to disclose to the agency if they have tested positive for the virus.

At Eddie Warrior prison for women in Taft, at least 781 women are known to have contracted the virus.

A pre-recorded message on the DOC's COVID-19 hotline on Tuesday said, "While we have experienced some COVID hotspots, most of our facilities continue to report zero cases. The agency continues to follow all state and CDC guidelines in an effort to mitigate the spread."

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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