NEWPORT, Vt. (AP) — An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Vermont state prison in Newport has grown to 100 inmates and eight staff members, making it the largest outbreak at a Vermont correctional facility since the start of the pandemic, the commissioner for the Department of Corrections said.
“It’s all hands on deck for our response,” Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement Tuesday.
Baker said the prison is being treated as though it were a hospital. Officials are coordinating with the department's medical contractor, regional hospitals, the State Emergency Operations Center and the Vermont Department of Health to ensure the well-being of the staff and inmates, he said.
According to the Marshall Project, more than 383,000 people in prison across the country have tested positive for COVID-19 since last March.
The Vermont outbreak began after one staff member and 21 inmates tested positive for the virus on Feb. 23. The most recent cases were detected in testing conducted March 1.
The ACLU of Vermont is calling for the the state to reduce the number of people in prison and to prioritize vaccinations for incarcerated Vermonters.
“The people in our prisons are members of our families and our communities, and none of them were sentenced to suffer or die in a pandemic,” said James Lyall, executive director of ACLU of Vermont in a written statement.
The prison has been on full lockdown since the first positive result Feb. 25. All other state prisons are on modified lockdown.
As of Tuesday statewide, a total of 12 staff and 127 inmates have tested positive for the virus.
On Wednesday, the Vermont Department of Health reported 115 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to nearly 15,500.
There were 23 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, including five in intensive care.
There was one additional death from COVID-19 reported, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 207.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 116 new cases per day on Feb. 16 to 97.29 new cases per day on March 2.
The latest average positivity rate in Vermont is 1.37%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Vermont the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1.88% on Feb. 16 to 1.37% on March 2.