Colorado prisons, jails report ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks

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DENVER  |  Four of the 10 largest ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks statewide are in correctional facilities, including two state prisons, according to health officials in Colorado.

Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Annie Skinner said the department’s facilities have conducted extensive testing to separate infected inmates from others and have required masks and staff screening, The Denver Post reported.

“The vast majority of that testing has been for staff and inmates who are not demonstrating any symptoms,” she said.

The largest outbreak in the state is at the Sterling Correctional Facility, which reported 605 confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths, health officials said. The Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center in Denver has reported the second largest outbreak with 467 confirmed cases, but no deaths.

The other two correctional facility outbreaks were reported at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex — with 192 cases and no deaths — and the Jefferson County Detention Center in Golden —with 96 cases and one death.

The state Department of Public Health and Environment also reported outbreaks tied to homeless shelters, showing that there were 128 confirmed cases but no known deaths in people experiencing homelessness in Denver.

Five of the current outbreaks have been occurring since April, and one started in March, officials said. An outbreak is considered resolved when the state health department determines the virus is no longer spreading at that location.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but can also be detected in people without symptoms. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.