Women's prison in Alaska reports 109-person virus outbreak

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A women’s prison in Alaska that had just three confirmed coronavirus cases last week says it now has more than 100 cases.

The Hiland Mountain Correctional Center reported 109 active cases of the virus on Monday. The state Department of Corrections said the prison can house about 400 inmates.

Randy McLellan, a correctional officer at the women's prison, said the prison has been on lockdown since the new cases were reported.

“To leave to have communal meals can’t happen, recreation or any programs they want to participate in or religious services — all that stuff is affected, it’s all limited," McLellan said. “They get no visitors. They’re essentially cut off from everything because of this outbreak. And it’s very unfortunate.”

Three of the state's 12 prisons currently have over 100 active coronavirus cases, including the Anchorage Correctional Center and Goose Creek in Point McKenzie, Alaska Public Media reported.

Goose Creek, the state's largest correctional facility, has reported a total of over 1,000 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The prison reported 402 active cases of the virus on Monday.

McLellan, who also serves as the president of the Alaska Correctional Officers Association, said he is worried that the lockdowns have negatively affected the inmates and corrections officers' mental health.

“It creates kind of an unsafe environment in the facilities," McLellan said. “And if the facility is unsafe for a correctional officer to work in, then it’s not safe for a prisoner to live in or try to rehabilitate in.”

Three inmates in the state have died from the coronavirus while 22 have been hospitalized as a result of the virus, according to the state Department of Corrections.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The Associated Press