POINT MACKENZIE — After one inmate at Goose Creek Correctional Center tested positive last week, 22 positive COVID-19 cases have now been reported among inmates at Goose Creek with five additional cases among Correctional Officers.
“We expect to see more positives since we’re doing increased testing every three days,” said Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Sarah Gallagher “When the first positive was identified it was identified on Oct. 28. At that time the decision was made in coordination with public health to test all of the individuals in that mod, so all of the individuals were tested the following day.”
The first detected inmate case of COVID-19 happened at Goose Creek on April 25, but only one inmate tested positive after over 200 tests were conducted. The recent outbreak among inmates at GCCC is the second largest prison outbreak in the state with 88 inmates testing positive in Fairbanks last week.
“Since really the beginning of the pandemic we have been treating each housing unit as like a family unit so they are not co mingling with other inmates outside of their living mods just in an effort to keep the virus contained,” said Gallagher.
Of the 22 inmates who tested positive at GCCC over the last week, 21 live in one mod and one lives in a separate mod. Each of the 22 inmates who tested positive are being housed in isolation. There are approximately 1,350 inmates at GCCC who are separated into 10 mods of around 100 inmates. After one person tested positive, each inmate within the mod was then tested and sent to quarantine in their cells. Gallagher said that with the assistance of the Public Health team, serial testing is being conducted every three days in each mod where an inmate has tested positive.
“Serial testing is you test everyone in the mod every three days, you retest all of the negatives,” said Gallagher. “You retest all of the negatives every three days until there have been no positive tests for 14 days.”
With increased testing among inmates, Gallagher expects more positive cases to come out of GCCC. As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across Alaska in March and April, each inmate sewed two of their own masks for use around the state Correctional facilities. Correctional Officers in close contact with inmates who have tested positive were asked to seek testing services outside of that provided by Public Health for the inmates.
“Officers who are identified as close contacts in institutions were recommended to go seek testing in their communities just because it would be a faster turnaround time. It lessens the burden on the institution since we are testing hundreds of inmates in the mod. It’s a lot of tests to process so it’s easier and it’s quicker for those staff members to receive testing at one of the local testing sites,” said Gallagher.
As winter descends upon the Mat-Su Valley, approximately 20 percent of inmates at the state’s largest prison have been quarantined and over one percent have already tested positive. The 27 positives are expected to continue to grow at GCCC.
There were 344 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Monday with 68 coming from the Mat-Su. Alaska has had 15,972 total resident cases with an additional 1,085 nonresident cases. Of those positive cases, 6,463 have been reported as recovered, 9,425 remain active and 84 people have died, including three Mat-Su residents. There have been 1,562 cases among Mat-Su residents with 226 nonresident cases. Of the 1,562 resident cases, 1,008 remain active and 551 are listed as recovered. The Mat-Su has had 701 cases over the last two weeks averaging 50 cases per day over the last 14 days.
Statewide, 444 people have been hospitalized total due to COVID-19 and 9.45 percent of all Alaskan hospital patients have tested positive. There are 79 patients in Alaska hospitals who have tested positive and another 18 who are awaiting test results. There have been a total of 27 total people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the Mat-Su and seven are currently hospitalized, the most since the pandemic began with a previous high of four. Of the 68 cases in the Mat-Su, 45 are from Wasilla and 17 are from Palmer. Of the patients at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, 9.59 percent of them have been hospitalized with COVID-19.