UPDATE: It was previously stated here that 561 inmates had active positive cases, that was the number reported at 6:00 P.M. October 20. This article has now been updated to reflect numbers reported on October, 21 at 6:00 P.M.
Additionally, confirmed positive cases in staff members has increased from 120 to 130, this is not representative of the currently active cases which are not reported publicly on the MDOC website.
MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – As of October 21, the Marquette Branch Prison was reporting 699 active positive cases of COVID-19 in inmates.
No inmates have passed away from the illness. Chris Gautz, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections says the staff is doing an incredible job in very difficult circumstances.
“They have a very difficult job as it is and then you add a pandemic on top of that and the decreases in staffing that’s available to assist but given all those circumstances they’ve still been able to complete their mission every day and it’s been a real sight to see,” said Gautz.
Several officers were off work to quarantine for testing positive for COVID-19. Gautz says it wasn’t difficult to bring in additional officers to help staff the prison.
“Our department is filled with people when there’s an emergency they run towards it rather than away from it and so true to form when Marquette was having issues, we had staff from around the state raise their hand as well as others who were deployed to that facility to help them,” said Gautz.
The facility has been able to maintain it’s public safety mission according to Gautz. He says they have been communicating with staff and inmates about what is going on.
“Just keeping those open lines of communication are really helpful so they have everything they need you know there’s hotline phone numbers, they can call the facility if you have questions,” said Gautz.
Gautz says anyone can find the number of active positive cases of COVID-19 by visiting their coronavirus webpage. The report the number of prisoners tested, confirmed cases, negative tests, and active positive cases in inmates. They also provide the number of confirmed and negative cases in staff. They report the number of staff that has been tested cumulative of all Michigan prisons, but do not disclose the number of staff members tested at each facility.
According to the webpage there have been 130 positive cases confirmed in staff at the Marquette Branch Prison. According to Warden Erica Huss, 48 staff members were able to return to work today.
Gautz says staff at the prison is dedicated to ensuring the safety of prisoners and the community surrounding the prison. Right now, they are focused on the pandemic and he says the staff are doing an admirable job in difficult circumstances.
“Obviously there’s a lot of overtime, there could be a lot of people are tired they’re just having to work a lot because of more than a third of the staff right now is unable to come to work because they’re either positive or they were off as a close contact,” said Gautz. “And so we’re making changes to some of our policies and making sure that everyone’s following the right precautions.”
They have provided masks and an ample amount of soap to staff and inmates. Gautz says they are also regularly cleaning common areas and high touch surfaces like doorknobs. They’ve also been communicating with the local health authorities on what they are doing.
“It’s just about making sure that we’re doing everything we can internally to make sure that that facility runs and that way we’re not a burden on anyone else,” said Gautz. “Thankfully, you know, very very few if any prisoners have had to go to the hospital because of this so we’re not taking up beds that the community might need.”
Numbers on the website are updated daily for all Michigan prisons. On the same site you can find information for their procedures regarding things including parole, visitation, transfers and care for sick prisoners.