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Alabama prisons record 203 more COVID-19 positive among incarcerated

Asymptomatic testing at Elmore Correctional Facility found 191 cases among incarcerated men.

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A rash of new COVID-19 cases among incarcerated men at Elmore Correctional Facility earlier this month prompted the Alabama Department of Corrections to test 960 more incarcerated men who showed no symptoms. 

Of those incarcerated people, 191 tested positive for COVID-19, or 19 percent. Another 11 incarcerated men at the Draper Quarantine Intake Facility, and one at the Easterling Correctional Facility also tested positive, ADOC announced in press release late Tuesday. 

“All existing quarantine protocols held in-place or newly implemented as recommended by the ADOC’s contracted State Medical Director are being maintained at each facility where newly identified positive inmate(s) are currently housed,” ADOC said in the release. 

In addition to cases among incarcerated people, 18 prison workers at 7 facilities and at ADOC’s academy in Selma have also tested positive since Aug. 13. 

As of Aug. 13, ADOC has vaccinated 11,355 incarcerated people, which is approximately 66 percent of ADOC’s in-house incarcerated, according to ADOC’s monthly statistical report in June, although the number of in-house incarcerated is fluid, as some are released while still others arrive. Additionally, 9,112 incarcerated people were vaccinated prior to intake, ADOC said in the release. 

Among prison staff, 876 have been vaccinated by ADOC, although more may have been vaccinated on their own, which aren’t reflected in ADOC’s total, the department notes. It’s unclear what percentage of ADOCs staff are vaccinated as the department has declined to release the total number of staff, citing an ongoing lawsuit. 

At least 66 incarcerated people have died after having tested positive for COVID-19, while three prison workers have died after testing positive, according to ADOC. 

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Alabama prisons ranked the fifth-highest in the number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 incarcerated people as of June 25, yet ranked 50th in the number of cases per 100,000, according to a report by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press

That wide disparity among deaths and cases in Alabama prisons may point to inconsistencies in testing throughout the pandemic in the state’s prisons. The state was slow to enact testing among the incarcerated. As of May 29, 2020, less than 1 percent of the state’s prison population had been tested for COVID-19. 

Colony Wilson, 40, died at the Birmingham Women’s Community Based Facility and Community Work Center in May 2020, two days after complaining of trouble breathing, according to other inmates there. 

A prison spokeswoman told APR at the time that Wilson was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and so she wasn’t tested prior to her death. 

A coroner later told The New York Times that Wilson died from a pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in the lung — and that the coroner also didn’t test Wilson for COVID-19. 

“They say she had blood clots in her lungs — that didn’t sit well with me,” Wilson’s uncle, Sylvester Wilson, told The New York Times. “How did she develop that just like that?”

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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