First COVID-19 cases confirmed in Minnesota's prison system

A staff member and an inmate have tested positive.
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MCF Red Wing

The first two cases of the novel coronavirus in Minnesota's prison system has been confirmed.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections issued a statement confirming that MCF-Red Wing and MCF-Moose Lake are the affected facilities.

A staff member from MCF-Red Wing – a juvenile facility – tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, while one inmate at MCF-Moose Lake has the virus.

Both are experiencing mild symptoms and don't require hospitalizing, and the DOC is taking steps to ensure the virus doesn't spread to others in each facility, and says it is following Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for quarantine and personal protective equipment.

Minnesota law enforcement and corrections officials have been taking steps to limit the exposure of COVID-19 in prisons and jails, including a system-wide ban on visitors until further notice, while some jails have released low-level, non-violent suspects on bail.

Any staff member or other official entering a facility now undergoes a symptom screening as well.

“We have been working directly with epidemiology staff from the Department of Health for several weeks to plan for the known likelihood of staff and inmate cases of COVID-19,” DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said.

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"We are taking all reasonable steps to minimize the spread with the state’s correctional facilities, and we are implementing methods to protect those most at risk medically.

“We continue our efforts to balance public health concerns inside the prisons with the need to offer prosocial therapeutic, educational, recreational and phone visiting activities. As an agency, we continue our preventative measures as part of our effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 within the prisons.”

So far there have been 22 inmates tested in Minnesota prisons, of which 17 tested negative, 1 positive, and four have their tests pending.

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