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WDOC ‘continues to manage’ COVID-19 outbreak at detention facilities

The Wyoming Department of Corrections "continues to manage a severe COVID-19 outbreak at two facilities," a statement for the department said on Thursday.

The Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington is seen in this photo from its website. (Courtesy Wyoming Department of Corrections)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Department of Corrections “continues to manage a severe COVID-19 outbreak at two facilities,” a statement for the department said on Thursday.

“Corrections staff in Wyoming deal with crisis sometimes on a daily basis. They deal with sickness and flu outbreaks every year. This is different,” the written WDOC statement said. “Each of our five correctional institutions continue to follow the expert guidance of The Wyoming Department of Health and the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all decisions involving this crisis. Yet, outbreaks happen.”

Officials with the WDOC report 222 confirmed positive cases as of Thursday, October 21 throughout the department’s five correctional facilities. 118 cases have been reported at Torrington’s Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution, including 15 staff and 103 affected inmates. 81 cases have been reported among inmates at the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton.

Staff numbers for the Honor Farm were not reported by the WDOC.

In addition, the WDOC reported 11 cases — 3 staff and 8 inmates — at the Wyoming Honor Conservation Camp in New Castle; 5 cases — 4 staff and 1 inmate — at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk; and 7 cases — 6 staff and 1 inmate — at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins.

“The WDOC continues to manage a severe COVID-19 outbreak at two facilities. The impacts to our operations have been necessary and yet difficult on staff, offenders and the families of those incarcerated,” the WDOC statement said. “We take public safety very seriously and the WDOC is doing everything it can to contain COVID-19 spread in our institutions.”

The WDOC says the continue to make COVID-19 vaccinations available and encourage both staff and inmates to get vaccinated.

“Very roughly speaking, more than 50% of those testing positive in the latest rounds of tests have been fully vaccinated. We believe that the high vaccination rate among our inmate population (roughly 58% are fully vaccinated) is why of those testing positive at WMCI only roughly 9% were experiencing serious symptoms and 40% were only reporting very minor symptoms. The rest were not symptomatic,” WDOC reports.

The WDOC says they believe departmental testing practices may be one reason for the high number of positive test results.

“In the community, individuals are tested when they are symptomatic. In the prison system, the testing practices vary and are either a 20% or 100% surveillance testing for staff and offenders alike. However, following medical guidance, if a person has tested positive in the past 90 days and is non-symptomatic at the time of testing, that individual is not tested due to being no risk of transmission,” WDOC says. “We continue working with our local health districts and booster shots will soon be available to staff and inmates”.

3 inmate deaths have been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic since it began in 2020.

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.