The Commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Corrections says it’s all hands on deck as a COVID-19 outbreak has infected more than 100 inmates and 10 staffers at the state prison in Newport. It is the largest outbreak at a Vermont correctional facility since the start of the pandemic.
Commissioner Jim Baker said Thursday that a staffer who was last at the facility on February 16 got a positive test result after seeking testing outside the system. Now, Baker says 128 positive, asymptomatic inmates are being isolated in two buildings at the Northern State Correctional Facility. More medical personnel are being called in and ambulances are staging nearby.
"We are still not sure how this chain of events started," Baker said Thursday. "In particular how it got from one building to another."
More testing and contact tracing is being conducted at the prison, which currently has 343 inmates.
Officials are coordinating with the department's medical contractor, regional hospitals, the State Emergency Operations Center and the Vermont Department of Health to ensure the well-being of the staff and inmates.
The ACLU of Vermont is calling for the state to reduce the number of people in prison and to prioritize vaccinations for incarcerated Vermonters. Baker said inmates at the Northern State Correctional Facility were to start getting vaccinated Wednesday, but that was canceled due to the outbreak.
The prison has been on full lockdown since the first positive result. All other state prisons are on modified lockdown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.