By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Department of Corrections is planning to test all of its staff, contract employees and inmates beginning next week for the coronavirus due to a spike in cases in the state.
According to a news release from the department and a notice to the inmate population, Director Bob Lampert explained there had been no reported cases in either the staff or inmates at DOC institutions as of Wednesday.
However, due to an uptick in coronavirus cases in various Wyoming communities, officials felt that mass testing was the best measure.
“We … want to continue to do all we can to prevent its introduction among our incarcerated adults and the staff who supervise them,” the release said.
Testing will start next week and initially, the staff will conduct 100% testing at each facility, beginning with the Honor Farm in Riverton, the Women’s Center in Lusk, the Honor Conservation Camp in Newcastle and then the two larger facilities, the Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington and the State Penitentiary in Rawlins.
Staff from Corizon, a prison health care company, will conduct the tests, which will be sent to the appropriate laboratory and paid for by the Wyoming Department of Health. Tests will be completed at no cost to the individual and won’t be submitted for insurance claims.
Results are expected to come back within two days of samples being sent to the lab. Movement between housing units, as well as to and from the tested facility, will be limited for a few days, pending test results.
Inmates arriving at an already-tested facility from another location that hasn’t undergone 100% testing will be quarantined and tested, even if they are arriving from another DOC facility.
If a positive test result is found, immediate action will be taken to initiate contact tracing and containment protocols, the release said.
The tests are required. Inmates who refuse testing will be placed under a mandatory quarantine for 14 days with subsequent testing opportunities, even if they don’t have symptoms.
Inmates with symptoms will be quarantined, as will inmates newly received from outside of the WDOC. These two groups will be tested twice during the quarantine process and prior to release into the general population.
Lampert said he was hopeful that the testing would be completed by the end of August. Following the completion of the first round of tests at an institution, ongoing surveillance testing of 20% of the staff and inmates will be conducted every other week until the DOH determines it is no longer necessary.