- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 11, 2020

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The spread of the coronavirus at Alaska’s largest prison has accelerated beyond an initial outbreak, with 110 inmates testing positive for the virus as of Monday.

Goose Creek Correctional Center first announced a virus outbreak at the facility Nov. 2, when the Alaska Department of Corrections said 22 inmates and five staff members tested positive, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

The prison west of Wasilla near Point McKenzie housed 1,317 pretrial and sentenced prisoners as of Monday, department spokeswoman Sarah Gallagher said.

“All inmates positive for COVID or those who are showing symptoms are isolated and monitored twice daily by DOC medical staff for any changes in symptoms,” Gallagher said.

Staff are required and inmates are strongly encouraged to wear masks, she said.

The outbreak began in one of the prison’s housing units, known as mods. Each mod has 64 prisoners, indicating the outbreak has expanded beyond a single unit, Gallagher said.

Each mod continues to operate as a “family unit” in order to minimize the risk of further transmission, Gallagher said.

Transfers in and out of the prison have been suspended, Gallagher said.

The corrections department also reported virus clusters in the general population at Fairbanks Correctional Center, which now has 104 cases.

Anchorage Correctional Complex has two cases in its general population and Wildwood Correctional Center in Kenai has one case, the department said.

The department said there also have been clusters of positive coronavirus cases in halfway houses run by contractors for former inmates.

Inmates entering Alaska jails and prisons must quarantine for 14 days before transferring into housing mods. There have been 97 cases diagnosed within that quarantined population, the department said.

Despite the growing outbreaks, no prisoners have died, been hospitalized or required “higher-level medical care,” Gallagher said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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