Officials handling COVID outbreak at FCI

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ASHLAND, Ky. - Federal Bureau of Prisons officials have shed light on how they are handling the coronavirus outbreak at Ashland FCI, which is currently dealing with the eighth-highest number of inmates with positive COVID-19 cases in the federal correctional system.


As of Saturday, 134 inmates had tested positive at Ashland FCI and eight staff members had tested positive. So far, nine inmates and six staff members have recovered from the virus. While typically counted as separate populations, the BOP has confirmed the COVID cases at FCI also include the adjacent camp.


Combined, the two facilities account for roughly 1,000 prisoners as of Nov. 12, per the BOP website.


A press release issued Thursday by the BOP states inmates are undergoing mass testing at the prison, as well as assessments of symptoms.


Positive inmates are being separated from the population and placed in medical isolation until they have made a full recovery. Inmates will stay in-house unless they require hospitalization.


According to a BOP spokesman, all institutions across the system have at least one rapid testing system in place that is capable of delivering results within 10-15 minutes. With response plans six weeks ahead of the initial state of emergency in March, the BOP claims to have been on top of the crisis from the outset.


At one point, the BOP was producing its own soap and face-coverings, according to the spokesman.


While the BOP has not stated how the virus has gotten into Ashland FCI and the prison camp, officials said a mandatory 14-day quarantine period is required for all inmates entering or exiting all BOP prison, even if they test negative.


Once the 14-day period is observed and the inmate still presents no symptoms, they are sent on their way to wherever they’re supposed to be.


Like at the local jails and the state prisons, all staff, contractors and legal counsel are screened via a temperature check — if they present 100.4 degrees or more, they’re turned away, according to the BOP.


Positive inmates are held in medical isolation until they are medically cleared. Staff will be required to isolate at home.


Most of the inmates, both at Ashland FCI and throughout the system, are either displaying mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to the BOP.


While the BOP shut down visitations at the outset of the virus, on Aug. 31 the BOP started to implement social visits for friends and relatives, with an emphasis on the use of plexiglass, social distancing and symptom screenings for visitors.


At applicable institutions, BOP is transferring out inmates to home confinement if they are a COVID-19 risk.


The prison with the most infected inmates is Tucson United States Prison, with 341 inmates positive out of a population of 1,343.

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