- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2020

DENVER (AP) - Inmates at Colorado’s El Paso County jail were not routinely given masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus until last week when it turned into the site of the state’s second-largest outbreak, a jail spokesperson said.

The jail in Colorado Springs, which has has held 1,200 detainees on average daily lately, previously only gave inmates masks if they were moving around the facility, going to to court or if recommended by medical staff, El Paso Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Deborah Mynatt told The Denver Post.

The jail initially did not issue masks to all inmates because there was a limited supply of face coverings that suitable for detention facilities. Mynatt said she did not know why suitable masks were not procured later.

“I’m not sure on who made the decision or why, but I know that the entire time we were taking recommendations from public health,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises detention facilities to provide all inmates with masks at no cost and to frequently wash them.

Officials first reported the jail outbreak on Oct. 26 when eight inmates who were asymptomatic tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the sheriff’s office, 90 jail workers and 863 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic began, all but 14 of them since mid-October.

The number of inmates with the disease who were considered infectious dropped to 148 on Wednesday because some inmates have left the jail and others are past the 10-day window when they are able to spread the disease.

Colorado’s largest coronavirus outbreak is at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where there have been 1,766 cases.

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.

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