The St. Francois County Health Center (SFCHC) confirmed that an investigation is underway into a COVID-19 outbreak at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre. The health center released a statement on the outbreak just before noon on Friday.
The report states that while undergoing facility-wide sentinel testing for COVID-19, 21 confirmed cases have been identified at the prison. A total of 2,986 inmates and staff have been tested so far and officials have received 1,352 test results. The facility is still receiving results.
ERDCC is following pandemic guidelines and is working with SFCHC to prevent further spread of the illness. The prison will remain closed to visitors.
Under CDC guidelines, critical infrastructure employees of the prison are allowed to continue to work if they are asymptomatic, so long as they utilize appropriate protective equipment. However, the Department of Corrections does not allow employees to work if they test positive, regardless of if they are asymptomatic. They are sent home and cannot return until they receive two negative tests, according to the health center.
The outbreak is under ongoing investigation as the health center works to identify contacts of positive employees.
Inmates who have been in the facility for 14 days or more prior to testing will be counted in St. Francois County virus statistics per Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services guidelines.
Employees who are St. Francois County residents will also be counted in the county statistics. Cases involving residents residing outside of the county will be sent to the appropriate jurisdiction.
For more information on Missouri Department of Corrections pandemic planning, visit https://doc.mo.gov/media-center/newsroom/covid-19.
As of Thursday, there had been 55 confirmed cases in St. Francois County since the pandemic began. The case count rose to 69 on Friday due to the prison outbreak with 21 active cases.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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