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United States: nearly 1,000 inmates, more than 200 staff in Wisconsin prisons have tested positive for coronavirus

After nearly flattening for about three months, positive coronavirus tests in Wisconsin prisons are back on the rise at rates worse than ever.

More than 600 inmates in state-run prisons tested positive for coronavirus in the past month, bringing the total to 953 since the beginning of the pandemic. Further, 223 staff had tested positive as of Sept. 15.

Most of the inmates have recovered, according to the Department of Corrections, with 175 still considered active cases. Corrections spokesman John Beard said “approximately 10” inmates have been hospitalized since the onset of the pandemic, noting some inmates may have tested positive but been hospitalized for other conditions.

Beard would not say whether any inmates who tested positive have died, saying the department does not determine the cause of death for inmates who die. The Journal Sentinel has requested records related to any inmate deaths.

After an outbreak at Waupun Correctional Institution in May, several months passed without reports of major outbreaks in prisons run by the Department of Corrections.

Last month, Green Bay Correctional Institution was hit with more than 200 cases, and positive test results there continue to roll in, now nearing 300.

As of Sept. 15, other state prisons with the highest number of inmates who’ve tested positive are:

  • Dodge Correctional Institution: 140 cases
  • Racine Correctional Institution: 109
  • New Lisbon Correctional Institution: 54
  • Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution: 40
  • Milwaukee Women’s Correctional Center: 22
  • Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility: 20
  • Felmers O. Chaney Correctional Center: 19
    Ten other prisons have reported at least one inmate testing positive.

With more than 21,000 people incarcerated in state-run prisons, Wisconsin has had about four positive tests per 100 inmates, putting the state in the middle of the pack nationwide.

Most other states have seen at least one incarcerated person die of coronavirus-related causes, according to a tally by the Marshall Project.

Health experts have warned that prisons are among the most dangerous places for the spread of coronavirus, due to the impossibility of social distancing and poor ventilation.

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