Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Osborn Correctional Institution, photographed during a tour in December 2016 when it closed one of its units. (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

One the same day the state Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of a dismissal of a lawsuit filed by inmates seeking protection from COVID-19, Osborn Correctional Institution was placed on lockdown when more than 100 asymptomatic inmates tested positive for the disease.

Of the 1,060 inmates at the facility in Somers, 617 were tested starting Wednesday, according to the state Department of Correction. Test results have been returned for 339. Nearly one in three—105 tests — came back positive. The agency is waiting on another 278 results, officials said.

About a third of the inmates opted not to be tested, said Karen Martucci, director of external affairs. Those inmates will be quarantined in isolation for 14 days as if they were asymptomatic carriers of the virus, which has killed six inmates among 3,285 Connecticut residents since March 1. Those who subsequently show signs of the illness will be tested and moved to a medical unit at Northern Correctional Institution, Martucci said.

Osborn was the first facility to receive mass testing for COVID-19 as the DOC moves to test all inmates in the system. 

The announcement that the entire facility was on lockdown came on Friday after the state Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal filed by six inmates and the Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorneys Association in a lawsuit seeking better protection from COVID-19.

The inmates sought better sanitation and medical care and more releases to create space for those who remain to social distance to stop the spread of the disease. That lawsuit was dismissed on April 24. A second similar lawsuit filed in federal court is moving forward.

The plaintiffs in the state lawsuit filed an emergency appeal with the state Supreme Court on May 8 asking the state’s highest court to directly take the case, bypassing the appellate court.

As of Friday, 598 inmates and 369 DOC employees had tested positive for COVID-19.

Close to 300 staff who tested positive have returned to work, and 444 of the inmates who became ill and moved to Northern have been returned to their original facilities.

The results are still pending for 163 DOC staff from Osborn, Northern, Carl Robinson Correctional Institution and Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution. They were tested on Wednesday, officials said.

DOC Commissioner Rollin Cook told staff this week that the goal is to test every inmate throughout the system.

“We are grateful to see the availability for mass testing become a reality. By testing everybody – staff as well as offenders, we are better able to protect everybody, those who are infected and those who are not,” Cook said. “The hope is that no one who tests positive becomes symptomatic, but if they do we are prepared to care for them.”