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News >  Washington

Over 100 COVID-19 cases reported among Coyote Ridge inmates, staff

June 11, 2020 Updated Thu., June 11, 2020 at 11:53 p.m.

Inmates Brian Harmon, left, and Tarquin Huff walk the yard Thursday, June 13, 2013 at Coyote Ridge, where more than 100 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19.  (Richard Dickin)
Inmates Brian Harmon, left, and Tarquin Huff walk the yard Thursday, June 13, 2013 at Coyote Ridge, where more than 100 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (Richard Dickin)

More than 100 incarcerated individuals and staff members at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center have contracted COVID-19 .

The Connell-based facility has the largest outbreak in a state corrections facility.

Only 114 inmates have been tested, and 71 of them (or 62% of those tested) have tested positive, as of Thursday.

Thirty staff members have tested positive for the virus.

The Washington Department of Corrections restricted movement at the Medium Security Complex on Thursday as a result of the spike of cases. The food and textile operations at Coyote Ridge are still not in production, and food production was shifted to Airway Heights Corrections Center.

“Due to the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and the limited access to emergency medical services and hospital care nearby, the Department of Corrections has directed CRCC to implement restricted movement throughout Medium Security Complex,” Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair said in a news release. “The health and safety of Corrections staff, the incarcerated individuals, and the citizens in the community remains our top priority.”

The department does not plan to test all inmates, despite the vast majority of inmates – 1,815 of 2,248 – being in quarantine.

Inmates are placed in quarantine when they were exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, according to the Department of Corrections. Thirty-three inmates are in isolation, meaning they are experiencing symptoms of the disease.

“Coyote Ridge Corrections Center has increased the rate of testing and tests incarcerated individuals as soon as they are symptomatic,” the department said in a statement to The Spokesman-Review. “As of today, the Department of Corrections does not plan to test all incarcerated individuals at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. The agency will continue to follow our protocols on testing.”

Thirteen inmates have been transferred to Airway Heights Corrections Center, where incarcerated individuals who need additional medical care can receive it at a regional care facility.

The department evaluates those who test positive to determine if they need to be transferred north to Airway Heights.

Coyote Ridge is located in Connell, about 45 minutes away from hospitals in the Tri-Cities area. Access to additional medical resources is limited to a volunteer EMS team and hospitals which are a drive away, a release from the department says.

“The Department is deploying additional custody and health services staff to assist CRCC staff in caring for those incarcerated at the facility,” a media release said.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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