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Coronavirus outbreak at Muskegon prison leads to 155 confirmed cases

The facility had no cases until last week when 19 were confirmed. That number jumped to 155 this week.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — A bulk of the Michigan prison system's active coronavirus cases stem from the Muskegon Correctional Facility.

The prison, which houses about 1,200 men, has 155 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, Aug. 5. Up until last week, this facility was one of the few remaining where the virus had not been present. Mass testing at the Muskegon prison in late April turned up zero cases. 

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesperson Chris Gautz said the recent uptick in cases came after mass testing of the two units where the initial 19 cases were confirmed last week. Of the 447 people tested in those units, 136 tested positive, 309 were negative and 2 are being re-tested. Gautz said many of the 155 inmates are asymptomatic. One inmate has been hospitalized, but is not on a ventilator. 

Two employees have also tested positive. On Tuesday, the MDOC tested all other inmates at the facility and those results should come later this week. 

Those who have already tested positive have been transferred to either Duane Waters Health Center in Jackson, or a unit at the Carson City Correctional Facility. The MDOC had opened up multiple extra housing units to provide isolation areas where inmates with the virus could recover, but many of those had already been closed after the case count dropped below 20 in the recent weeks. 

The MDOC currently has 168 active cases across its 29 prisons. Sixty-eight inmates have died from the virus. 

The Muskegon facility is isolating people only with those in their units until the mass testing results are in, meaning that common areas are closed off to prevent further spread. Gautz said while they can not pinpoint exactly how the virus made its way into the facility, the department is confident it was not from inmates, as anyone who is transferred to a prison is isolated and tested twice for coronavirus. 

Gautz also said all employees are being screened as they enter work, and Muskegon staff were offered free testing this week. 

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