Nearly 100 employees of the Alabama Department of Corrections have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 16 whose positive tests were announced today.
In a news release, the department said each of the 16 employees has self-quarantined. In keeping with what it has stated each time an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the department stated its Office of Health Services was trying to determine whether any inmates or other employees “may have had direct, prolonged exposure to these staff members.”
“Upon completing the appropriate follow-up interviews and due diligence, OHS will advise any exposed staff members to contact their healthcare providers and self-quarantine for the recommended 14-day period, or as advised by their healthcare providers,” the release stated. Of the 16 employees, five are at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, and three are at the corrections central office in Montgomery.
The latest positive tests bring to 99 the number of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 19, when corrections announced that one of its staffers had tested positive. Of the 99 employees, 26 have been cleared to return to work.
“The ADOC does not test its staff for COVID-19, nor are we legally able to require staff testing as an employer,” according to the news release. “If a staff member becomes symptomatic, he or she must contact his or her physician, who subsequently will order a COVID-19 test so long as certain (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) criteria are met.”
Inmates have undergone COVID-19 tests at most of the prison system’s institutions, and a total of 214 had been tested by last weekend. Twenty-seven inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, 18 still have active cases, and two who tested positive have died.
As of January, the Alabama prison system housed more than 21,000 inmates, and it has been trying to beef up its ranks of correctional officers. In June 2018, according to a Department of Justice report, the system had filled only a third of about 3,300 authorized officer slots.
Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Prisons reports that at institutions housing federal inmates in Alabama, which include a prison for females in the west Alabama town of Aliceville, one for males in the east Alabama town of Talladega, and a contracted residential re-entry center in Birmingham, there are five inmates and seven employees with active cases of COVID-19.