ctnewsjunkie file photo
Prison cells at Osborn Correctional Institute (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

The percentage of inmates with COVID-19 dropped by two-thirds, according to figures released Friday by the Correction Department.

A second round of mass testing done at all the state’s prisons from July 23 to Sept. 8 determined that about 3%, or 241 of 8,556 inmates tested have the virus, DOC officials said. There are currently seven inmates who have tested positive who are asymptomatic, officials said.

There has not been a symptomatic inmate since Sept. 2, according to the DOC. Seven inmates have died during the coronavirus pandemic with the bulk coming from Osborn Correctional Institution, which as of Sept. 8 reported that 8.9% of its population tested positive during the second round of testing.

The first round of mass testing done from May 13 to June 25 revealed a 9% positive rate. That figure was based on tests done on 9,504 inmates during which 832 tested positive.

“I am pleased but not surprised by the drop in the percentage of offenders whose test results came back positive,” Correction Commissioner Designee Angel Quiros said. “The correctional and healthcare staff have done an incredible job throughout the pandemic, I am truly grateful for their commitment to this agency, I cannot thank them enough.”

The DOC is now operating under a federal court-approved agreement with the Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union which filed a lawsuit over conditions at the prisons as the coronavirus blew through the state.

Under the agreement, DOC officials are required to identify medically fragile inmates for release, and provide more cleaning and social distancing to prevent further spread of COVID-19 through the prison population.

Close to 400 DOC staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 with many recovering and returning to work. The seven inmates who are asymptomatic are being quarantined and monitored by prison healthcare staff, DOC officials said.

The inmate population has dropped by 3,000 since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting the state in mid-March, officials said.

York Correctional Institution, the state’s only prison for women, and Manson Youth Institution, housing young males under 21 years of age, have not had a positive case of COVID-19, DOC officials said.

Other facilities including Osborn, Carl Robinson Correctional Institution and Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center have had more than 250 cases.

Quiros, who has been the interim Commissioner of the Department of Correction since late June, announced a few weeks ago that the medical isolation unit for inmates who are symptomatic was moved from Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, which is the state’s most restrictive prison, to a more modern facility with better ventilation in the MacDougall building of the MacDougall Walker prison in Suffield.

The MacDougall building has a “modern infrastructure, which is in line with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines pertaining to the care of incarcerated individuals during the pandemic,” officials said.

Quiros acknowledged when announcing the move that inmates had been hiding symptoms of COVID-19 because they were fearful of being transferred to Northern, which is considered the state’s “supermax” prison.

Although he’s pleased with the 6% drop in the concentration of inmates who have tested positive, Quiros said,”This is no time for a victory lap, we must maintain our vigilance to prevent a resurgence of the virus in the future.”