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Two positive tests reported at Elkton prison

LISBON — Two of those housed at the currently filled-to-capacity FCI Elkton federal prison facility have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

While Laura Fauss, public information officer for the Columbiana County Health Department, could not comment on any particular cases, she did confirm that Health Commissioner Wes Vins and the department’s epidemiologist and nursing director, Jamie Elenz, are working with those at the prison and federal health officials about the situation at the prison.

“We have worked with them about communicable disease concerns there in the past,” Fauss said, adding there is a good working relationship there.

All visitation at the prison has been suspended until further notice, including legal visits for at least the next 30 days. Prisoners have been granted additional minutes each month for telephone calls. Another emergency response noted is limiting the internal movement of prisoners throughout the facility.

Those inmates with COVID-19 symptoms and temperatures above 100.4 degrees are being placed immediately into isolation and tested for the virus. Those asymptomatic inmates with exposure risk factors are being quarantined.

Additionally, the prison is staggering the meal times and recreation times to try to limit social gatherings and encourage the inmates to practice social distancing.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, there are currently 2,469 inmates being housed at the FCI Elkton facilities, which include both the low security facility and a low security satellite prison. The maximum number of prisoners which can be housed there is 2,470.

A relative of one inmate at FCI Elkton had contacted the Journal recently to say the conditions are crowded and there was a limited amount of soap being given to prisoners, which they felt was insufficient to wash their hands constantly to ward off COVID-19 as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control.

It appears the prison had taken some steps to try to head off an outbreak inside the prison. On a form from March 13, the prison gave guidelines to begin COVID-19 screenings for all visitors, volunteers and contractors entering the prison, including legal counsel. The questions asked included whether someone had recently traveled from China, Iran, South Korea, Italy or Japan or had any contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Additionally, the visitor was questioned about whether they had fever or chills, cough or shortness of breath.

Additionally, there were tools put in place in February for inmates entering and leaving the facility.

Despite these changes to protocol, the federal Bureau of Prisons is reporting 28 inmates and 24 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the federal prison system as of Monday afternoon. There are no staff members listed as serving at the FCI Elkton.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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