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Rising Number of COVID Cases Forcing Kansas to Move Inmates Between Prisons

There is only one COVID-19 case in Lansing, the prison where a majority of inmates are headed. (Photo by Nomin Ujiyediin, Kansas News Service)

 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — COVID cases are spiking so much in a Kansas prison that inmates are being transferred to other facilities.

Corrections records confirmed 55 positive cases at the El Dorado men’s prison as of June 26, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections. El Dorado has a minimum and medium unit in Oswego, and the corrections department said people from Oswego were being transferred. There are 14 positive cases among staff.

Corrections officials said moving inmates allows them to quarantine and isolate others who have been infected or exposed.

On June 22, there were 140 people held in El Dorado’s south unit but a week later the south unit was vacant, population reports show.

The department said the majority of people are headed to the Lansing Correctional Facility — which has only one positive case. The department said it chose Lansing because inmates are closer to medical facilities.

“Unfortunately, this underscores the fact that COVID-19 is still present in our society, and while

vaccination continues to lessen the severity of the illness, it does not prevent individuals from

contracting the virus,” KDOC Secretary Jeff Zmuda said in a weekly update to resident families.

Vaccinations have largely kept infections out of prison and over 6,000 inmates got the jab throughout the pandemic, prison statistics say. But those totals are cumulative and count people who have been released. The prison system has started mitigation protocols with the Kansas Department for Health and Environment.

“KDOC’s COVID-19 positive numbers have remained very low, and in most cases they have been zero over the past several weeks,” Zmuda said. “That, unfortunately, is no longer the case.”

Clarification: The Kansas Department of Corrections misstated the number of COVID-19 cases at the Lansing Correctional Facility. There is only one case, not 47.

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Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the Kansas News Service in Topeka. Follow him on Twitter @Blaise_Mesa. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.  Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

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