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61 inmates at Albemarle Correctional have tested positive for COVID-19

A mass testing effort at Albemarle Correctional Institution has found that 61 inmates have been infected with COVID-19, which makes it one of the largest prison outbreaks in the state.

The number accounts for 24 percent of the total number of inmates that have so far been tested (259), which is much higher than the percentage of people across the state that have tested positive. As of Friday, ten percent of total tests were positive.

Last week, the state’s Department of Public Safety announced that it was initiating a plan to test all 31,522 inmates in the state’s prison system and DPS spokesman John Bull said ACI would be the first facility to test all of its roughly 750 inmates.

There have also been 12 staff members at ACI that have been infected with COVID-19, and only one of them has recovered and is back at work.

So far, the COVID-19 outbreak at Albemarle is the third largest in the state prison system.

The largest was at Neuse Correctional Institution, in Goldsboro, where more than 460 inmates were diagnosed during mass testing in April, according to DPS data. The second largest has been at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, in Raleigh, where more than 90 inmates have tested positive.

Of the 3,648 total tests performed on inmates across the state, 21 percent (777) have come back positive while 666 have recovered. There have also been five deaths though none at ACI.

COVID-19 and other infectious diseases thrive inside close quarter areas, like prisons and jails, because inmates live so closely together.

Bull said inmates who test positive are placed in medical isolation and are separated from the inmate population. When multiple inmates test positive and are asymptomatic, they frequently remain at the facility and are isolated as a cohort separate from the remaining population.

Bull said based on testing and transfer protocols “we have no reason to believe the offenders recently transferred to Albemarle Correctional have any connection to the recent outbreak.”

The state’s Health and Human Services Department documents prison outbreaks as part of its congregate living settings reports, which also include nursing homes and residential care facilities. Aside from ACI, there have been four other outbreaks in Stanly County — Spring Arbor, Woodhaven Court, Bethany Woods and two Monarch groups homes. The state defines an outbreak as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases.

As of Friday morning, 320 people in Stanly County had been infected with COVID-19, with 123 still active cases. Five people have also died. There are at least 58,818 cases in North Carolina with 1,297 deaths and 892 people currently hospitalized.

About Chris Miller

A Concord, NC native. Concord--NC State--Denver, CO--Concord--Maryland--Concord--Albemarle.

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