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Shuttered wing at Osborn Correctional Institution (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

The percentage of inmates with COVID-19 has dropped by a third to just under 1% after a third round of mass testing, according to the Department of Correction.

The testing was most recently done on a total of 8,647 inmates at 14 DOC facilities from Oct. 6 to Nov. 13, the agency said. Currently 44 asymptomatic inmates who have tested positive are isolated from the rest of the population, officials said. In all, 80 inmates tested positive during the third round of testing for a positivity rate of 0.9 %.

The previous round of testing which took place from July 23 to Sept. 8 determined that 3%, or 241 of 8,556 inmates were positive, DOC officials said. Previously nearly 9% of inmates had tested positive during the first round of testing earlier this year.

A fourth round of testing for DOC staff who have direct contact with inmates revealed that 65 out of 5,110 employees tested positive for a positivity rate of 1.3% The average positivity rate for the entire state has been hovering between 5% and 7% in the past few weeks.

“This is great news as we begin the second wave of the pandemic,” DOC Commissioner Designee Angel Quiros said. “This is proof that our efforts to maintain the spread of the virus are working. I realize that we are not out of the woods yet, but with a proven plan and phenomenal staff, we are ready.”

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, as of Friday, 1,749 inmates have tested positive with eight inmates dying from complications of COVID-19 including a 45-year-old man who passed away last week while serving time for a burglary conviction.

DOC officials attributed the decrease in positive tests to staff “adhering” to protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus including mask wearing by employees and inmates.

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

The CT ACLU recently filed a complaint stating that precautions including cleaning and mask wearing weren’t consistent at all facilities.

The incarcerated population has dropped by about 3,000 inmates since March, DOC officials said. The agency’s health care administrators are working with the state Department of Public Health to increase testing for inmates and staff, officials said.