Gov. Kim Reynolds focused on new cases and protections for the prison population during her press conference on April 20.
“On Saturday, the Iowa Department of Corrections announced that an Inmate at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC) had tested positive for COVID-19,” Reynolds said. “This is the first positive test identified in any of Iowa’s correctional facilities.”
Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, discussed the various ways that her team is working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities across Iowa.
“As of today in our institutions we have one positive inmate, two positive staff, we have tested 104 inmates,” Skinner said. “We have a few pending tests at this time.”
Staff data is reliant on self-reporting and inmates are tested according to the Iowa Department of Corrections website.
Skinner discussed some of the actions that the Iowa Department of Corrections have taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including the cancellation of volunteer activities as of March 9 until further notice and the cancellation of all visitations on March 14 until further notice. This includes sending out DOC work crews into businesses and the community.
Began requiring any employee or contractor entering the facility to complete a health questionnaire and undergo a temperature check. If a person is found to be at high risk of having COVID-19, the person is sent home and told to contact a doctor.
Began screening every inmate being brought into a facility and placing them in quarantine for 14 days.
All staff in prisons are to wear masks and individuals incarcerated are encouraged to wear masks. All inmates at IMCC must wear masks due to the recent positive case.
Skinner said inmates at IMCC undergo temperature checks twice a day and if any inmate displays symptoms they are immediately placed in special quarantine.
“If an inmate has been identified as having or likely having the virus, the inmate will remain in quarantine and not be transported to another facility or released,” Skinner said. “If an inmate is going to be transported to a medical facility or hospital that entity will receive advanced communication prior to transport.”
Another strategy the Iowa Department of Corrections is working on is reducing the total prison population.
“About a month ago we were about 22 percent above capacity,” Skinner said. “Today our prison count is 8,372. This is the lowest it has been since June 30, 2017.”
Since March 1, the Iowa Department of Corrections has had 811 total releases and 748 admissions according to Skinner.
“We are working closely with the Board of Parole, which has the authority to release those that would likely succeed in a community setting,” Skinner said. “Together we are working to find a balance of good public safety and the safety of the institutions for our staff and those incarcerated.”
Skinner said there have been 482 individuals approved for parole and 90 individuals approved for future parole for a total of 572.
“We are working with the district directors with violators, those who violate the conditions of their supervision and are returned to prison, which make up the majority of our admissions as of late,” Skinner said. “We are exercising options to keep these individuals in their communities as long as they do not pose an imminent public safety risk.”
There are 257 new COVID-19 cases in the state of Iowa, bringing the total number of positive cases to 3,159, according to the Iowa COVID-19 Information website.
In Story County, there were two new cases reported. These cases include two adults (18-40 years).
In Polk County, there were 54 new cases reported. These cases include 20 adults (18-40 years), 16 middle-aged adults (41-60 years), seven older adults (61-80 years) and 11 elderly (81+).
In Boone County, there were no new cases reported.
There have been an additional four deaths in the state of Iowa:
One middle-aged adult (41-60 years) in Black Hawk County.
One middle-aged adult (41-60 years) and one elderly (81+) in Linn County.
One middle-aged adult (41-60 years) in Mahaska County.
This brings the total number of deaths in Iowa to 79.