The Michigan National Guard will be assisting the Michigan Department of Corrections in testing every inmate for COVID-19 at Upper Peninsula prisons this week.
The guard members will start at Baraga Correctional Facility on Monday, and will then move east across the Upper Peninsula with the goal of testing an entire facility in one day.
This mass testing will hit all the state prisons in the region, including Alger Correctional Facility, Baraga Correctional Facility, Marquette Branch Prison, Newberry Correctional Facility, Chippewa Correctional Facility and Kinross Correctional Facility.
About 7,500 inmates will be tested at the six prisons.
The first round of mass testing at a Michigan prison was completed early this week. It revealed that more than half of the inmates at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Branch County, 785 of them, tested positive for COVID-19.
The MDOC also set out of test all of the inmates at G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson this week; to date about 30% of the prisoners have tested positive for the virus.
There are 29 state prisons in Michigan holding about 38,000 inmates.
MDOC reported 1,825 cases of coronavirus and 42 deaths on Saturday through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. So far only two inmates at Upper Peninsula prisons have tested positive for the virus; 21 tests are still pending and 60 have come back negative.
A lawsuit was filed this week against the state corrections department seeking testing for all Michigan prisoners and staff. MDOC reports that 3,770 have been tested so far.
The majority of the national guardsmen working on testing the inmates are residents of the Upper Peninsula, a news release said. MDOC employees who are active members of the National Guard at the prisons will also assist in the testing.
“The medical professionals of the Michigan National Guard are proud to assist with COVID-19 testing in the Upper Peninsula,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “We are community members and neighbors, and we always ready to assist in the fight against COVID-19.”
There will be 15, three-person teams of Michigan National Guard members working with MDOC staff to complete the testing. Medical specialists from the National Guard will be in each team.
Once samples are collected from each prison, they will be transported a lab for testing. Results will take about 48 hours.
“We are very grateful for the support from the National Guard in this effort to continue our testing of prisoners across the state,” said MDOC Director Heidi Washington. “Their assistance will allow us to accelerate our plans for testing our population, which will help us keep our staff, prisoners and the public safe.”
The Federal Correctional Institution in Michigan reports 93 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. There are six ICE detainees in Michigan that have tested positive for the virus.
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