COVID-19 outbreaks returning to Missouri prisons
The state has become a virus hotspot again due to the delta variant of COVID-19
By Kurt Erickson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY — After seeing the number of positive COVID-19 cases dwindle in June, the deadly virus is again on the march within Missouri's sprawling prison system.
Prisons in Fulton and Vandalia that had seen case counts drop to the single digits last month are now reporting over 100 cases each. Prisons in St. Joseph and Chillicothe also are seeing increases mirroring the uptick across the state.
Similarly, the number of infected employees working in Department of Mental Health facilities doubled this week to 49.
And, after eradicating the virus from state-run juvenile detention facilities in late May, the Department of Social Services is reporting nine active cases.
Like nursing homes and other settings where people live in close proximity, the state's prisons and homes for mentally ill have seen outbreaks of the virus for the past year.
The increases come as Missouri has become a virus hotspot again as the delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading among a general population that is only 40% fully vaccinated.
Within the Missouri Department of Corrections, more than 14,000 inmates have been vaccinated, representing 62% of the inmate population.
Visiting at the 20 facilities resumed June 1 for inmates who are fully vaccinated.
There is no mandate for prison employees to get vaccinated and the department is not keeping track of who has received a shot.
The latest figures show 281 inmates and 25 prison staff have active infections of the disease.
Since the pandemic began, 48 offenders and seven employees have died from the complications related to the coronavirus.
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