Colorado has identified 13 new coronavirus outbreaks within its constellation of jails, prisons and halfway houses in October, as the state grapples with widespread transmission of the disease.
The state's prisons were the site of Colorado's first major outbreak -- Sterling Correctional Facility has reported a total of 607 cases among inmates; three inmates have died, and only 15 remain sick, according to state data. But fresh outbreaks have cropped up elsewhere. Fremont Correctional has had 419 cases among staff and inmates; 154 inmates are still infected, and one inmate has died.
The Pueblo-based Youthful Offender System has an outbreak that's just eight days old but has infected 75 inmates and 12 staff members.
In all, the state Department of Corrections says it has 280 active cases among inmates at seven prisons, with Fremont and the YOS representing the largest. An outbreak at Buena Vista Correctional was identified by the state last week; 26 inmates and 18 staff members have contracted the virus. One inmate has recovered (the Corrections Department doesn't list staff recoveries on its COVID dashboard).
All eight inmate cases within the Centennial prison remain active; the state says 12 staff members have also tested positive. More than 40 new cases among inmates at Sterling have also been confirmed in October, according to state outbreak data published Sept. 30 and updated this week.
In a statement, the state Department of Public Health and Environment said that those living in the facilities are "at higher risk for contracting COVID-19, in part because physical distancing can be challenging."
"We are seeing a steady increase in outbreaks across the state, and prisons, jails, and detention centers are no exception," a spokeswoman for the agency said in an email. "It is an indication that there is increased disease transmission across the state, which our case numbers certainly reflect. We are working closely with these facilities and the Dept. of Corrections to help provide disease mitigation strategies and widespread testing. Our Rapid Response teams can quickly activate to provide testing in outbreak situations."
Beyond the state-controlled facilities, correctional housing facilities have reported outbreaks elsewhere in Colorado. El Paso's county jail has had 72 inmates test positive, plus at least three staff members, according to state data and a statement released by the county's sheriff's office. The Lakewood-based Mount View Youth Services Center has had 26 total cases, an outbreak identified late last week. A similar facility in Adams County reported seven cases, five of which are staff members.
The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility in Aurora has confirmed 11 new cases in October; the outbreak there was officially identified by the state in late May but is still an active cluster.
Several transitional centers have also identified outbreaks this month, though to lesser degrees than the larger facilities. At least four of these facilities have reported outbreaks in October, totaling more than 20 cases.
Of the 15 currently active outbreaks among prisons, jails or transitional facilities, more than 1,400 cases have been reported (nearly half of that comes from Sterling's months-long outbreak). More than 1,200 inmates and residents have tested positive, as have 202 staff members.
A message sent to the Corrections Department seeking comment was not returned Thursday.