Two Arizona Inmates Test Positive for COVID-19, One After Multiple False Negatives

The Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility, in Marana, Arizona.
The Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility, in Marana, Arizona. Prison Insight via Flickr
Two inmates in Arizona have tested positive for COVID-19, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced in a "management strategy update" posted to its website on Tuesday night.

One of the inmates had tested negative twice before, the update said. He has been at a community hospital since March 27, "due to several non-Covid related symptoms," it added.

The other is housed at the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility, a minimum-security prison that includes substance abuse treatment. It is operated by Management and Training Corporation, a private company.

The update offered little other detail, beyond that "both inmates are receiving appropriate medical care at their current locations."

ADC did not immediately respond to questions about why the inmate who had previously tested negative was twice retested, whether any other inmates who tested negative would be retested, and the current condition of the inmates who had tested positive.

To date, just 60 people incarcerated in prisons in Arizona have been tested for COVID-19, with 48 tests coming back negative and 10 pending.

The department says that it is separating "any inmates who exhibit flu-like symptoms" from the general population and that it is "taking proactive measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the inmate population."

But advocates for incarcerated people and families with loved ones in prison have raised concerns that the department is doing too little to ensure that staff and inmates alike have access to soap, hand sanitizer, and protective equipment in conditions that already are too crowded and unhygienic.

In private group chats, correctional officers have expressed similar worries.

In a separate update Tuesday, the Department of Corrections said that it would begin "distributing fabric face coverings to all employees over the next few days."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended that everyone wear non-medical cloth face masks when they are around other people.

Those cloths are being made by inmate workers at Perryville, Douglas, and Florence prison complexes through Arizona Correctional Industries, the update said.

"The department is making enough so each employee will receive two face coverings," it said, adding that so far, inmates have made more than 8,000 coverings.
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Elizabeth Whitman was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from March 2019 to April 2020.