Nearly half of all incarcerated people housed inside the Whetstone Unit of the Tucson state prison complex have tested positive for COVID-19, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced Tuesday evening.
The department indicated that 517 people out of the total 1,066 population have the virus. They are currently being housed together in a separate living area and are receiving “appropriate medical care.”
“They will not be allowed back into the general population until they have been medically cleared,” the department said in a press release. “In addition to measures that are already in place, all inmates at Whetstone will receive meals and all required medication and medical services in their housing units.”
More than 890 people have tested positive for COVID-19 across the state’s 16 prison complexes and 15 people have died. The Tucson prison is clearly dealing with a widespread outbreak and has the most positive cases of all locations.
According to the department’s most recent statistics, 564 correctional staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 as well.
In 2019, 11 percent of the state's prison population was over 55 years old. Prison healthcare vendor Centurion previously identified 6,600 incarcerated people that are vulnerable to COVID-19 based on their age group, health status, and diagnoses.
As their positive case numbers continue to increase, the Department of Corrections maintains that they are taking “significant actions” to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread. Staff are provided personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks, gowns, gloves, and face shields, and incarcerated people have had face masks provided to them since the beginning of July.
The department states that elevated cleaning practices have been employed throughout prisons since the COVID-19 pandemic began.