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COVID outbreak at Newport prison growing

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 9:20 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2021 at 12:00 PM EST
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NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) - An outbreak of the coronavirus at a Vermont prison is growing.

The Vermont Department of Corrections says 100 more prisoners at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport have tested positive for COVID-19, along with eight staff members.

These 108 cases were identified Tuesday night from testing done Monday.

The outbreak at the Northeast Kingdom prison started last month when one staffer and 21 prisoners tested positive for the virus. In all, the facility has 127 COVID-positive inmate cases and 10 infected staff members.

“This is the largest outbreak at a Vermont correctional facility since the start of the pandemic, and it’s all hands on deck for our response,” Vt. Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement. “Northern State is now being treated like a hospital. We’re coordinating with our medical contractor, regional hospitals, the State Emergency Operations Center, the Vermont Department of Health, and other partners to ensure we have wraparound services for those in our care. Ensuring the wellbeing of staff and the incarcerated population is our top priority.”

Contract tracing is underway and the entire facility will be tested again on Thursday.

The prison remains under full lockdown.

The ACLU of Vermont is now calling on Gov. Phil Scott to prioritize vaccinating inmates.

In a statement, ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall said, in part: “Vermonters overwhelmingly support smarter, more humane prison policies. Vermonters value compassion and responsible government. In neglecting incarcerated Vermonters and their families, Governor Scott has shown neither.”

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