Women’s prison in Pierre dealing with COVID outbreak

PIERRE, S.D. (DRG News) – Thursday’s update from the South Dakota Department of Health says there are currently 120 active cases of COVID-19 in Hughes County.

State epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton says 106 of the active cases are inmates (102) or staff (4) at the State Women’s Prison.

A statement from the Department of Corrections says they conducted their first mass-testing event with guidance from the Department of Health. Because of the number of positive cases, inmates who had previously tested positive and those who tested positive during the mass testing were moved to the Pierre Community Work Center, which is located east of the Women’s Prison. Inmates at PCWC who did not test positive were moved to the Women’s Prison. Inmates identified as close contacts to those who tested positive are in quarantine at the Women’s Prison. DOC says as of today (Sept. 17), there are 102 inmates housed at PCWC and 307 inmates housed in the Women’s Prison and Unit E. Four PCWC staff members have tested positive as of today (Sept. 17).

A Department of Corrections spokesman also says all inmates are required to wear masks, and DOC staff is placing an extra emphasis on proper hygiene, cleaning, and hand washing. Inmates in Pierre are not being allowed to go out into the community for work release or community service projects. Visitation, programming and contact with volunteers is suspended.

The spokesman says inmates have access to their inmate tablets for phone calls and messaging. Each inmate has been provided with two additional free phone calls per week and video visitation is continuing.

DOC is continuing to follow recommendations from the Department of Health and the Centers of Disease Control guidelines.

Since April, the number of DOC inmates and staff being tested have been posted each weekday on the DOC website. The link to the page is on the homepage of the DOC website at https://doc.sd.gov/.