5 Utah State Prison inmates test positive for COVID-19

(Jim Urquhart | Tribune file photo) The Utah State Prison Thursday, June 17, 2010.

Officials believe a small outbreak of coronavirus at the Utah State Prison in Draper was introduced by a medic who treated several inmates.

So far, five inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, the prison announced Friday. That is up from the two reported Wednesday, when officials locked down the prison.

All of those inmates lived in the prison’s Wasatch Facility, within the Baker Block. All 164 people living in that cell block have been tested. Officials anticipate results within 72 hours.

Prison officials said in a statement that the medical care worker who possibly infected inmates was wearing “full” personal protective equipment while working with inmates.

That medic started showing COVID-19 symptoms shortly after treating patients and then “did promptly get tested and quarantined.”

All inmates who saw this medic will be tested, according to the prison.

Prison officials have placed both the Utah State Prison and the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison on “modified” lockdown, meaning "individuals' movement and level of recreation will be limited, and based on areas of observation, quarantine and isolation.”

“Our team and those we supervise have worked diligently and heroically to keep COVID-19 from entering our general incarcerated population,” said Mike Haddon, executive director for the Utah Department of Corrections. “We are genuinely concerned about the possible transmission of this virus, which is why we are following and exceeding [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations and working with local health officials to contain any potential outbreak.”

Until now, the Utah State Prison and the Central Utah Correctional Facility haven’t had an inmate in the general imprisoned population contract the coronavirus. There have been past positives at the facilities, but those either came from incoming prisoners, who are quarantined for 14 days, or from incarcerated people from county jails, which the larger prisons sometimes contract to hold.

This outbreak comes as the state has reported high — and, at times, record-breaking — numbers of new COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the state announced 1,411 new cases and has averaged 960 new positive test results per day over the last week.