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Utah State Prison enters “code-red” lockdown over COVID-19

A section of the Utah State Prison at the Point of the Mountain in Draper is pictured on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

DRAPER, Utah — The Utah State Prison is currently under what the Department of Corrections calls a “code-red” lockdown, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The facility faces a possible second outbreak of COVID-19, just weeks after an initial outbreak at the prison, according to a Facebook post from prison officials.

“The Utah State Prison here in Draper is currently on lockdown at least for the next 24 hours due to what appears to be a second outbreak of COVID-19 within our facilities,” said Mike Haddon, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections. “It’s critically important that you note that our team right now is actively working both on containment processes, as well as ensuring that our incarcerated individuals are receiving the services that they need.”  

Haddon said two people housed in the prison’s Oquirrh 5 facility exhibited symptoms Thursday night and tested negative for COVID-19. But someone in the same facility with symptoms tested positive for the virus Friday morning. 

“We immediately put into place our containment protocols for the Utah State Prison, specifically in Draper,” he said. “Shortly after that, an inmate that is housed in the Promontory Facility reported COVID-19 symptoms. We also promptly tested that individual, and unfortunately, that individual also came back as a positive.” 

Haddon canceled an earlier planned Facebook Live in order to address the unfolding situation, he said, but took to Facebook Live later in the day to update the public. 

Both of the affected facilities will immediately undergo extensive cleaning, Haddon said. He described Oquirrh 5 as the place where the prison’s most “medically vulnerable” inmates are housed. As both Oquirrh 5 and Promontory contain “dormitory-style” housing, Haddon said the concern for virus spread remains high. 

“Our staff right now are working quickly to accommodate isolation and quarantine as we need to,” Haddon added. 

Haddon said to date, 312 individuals at the prison have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. The prison considers 303 of those people to have recovered. 

“Those numbers are certainly likely to change now with this newest outbreak,” Haddon said, promising to keep the public updated through the department’s website