In a recent press release from the Las Animas and Huerfano Counties Public Health Department (LAHCPHD), Director Kim Gonzales stated there were an additional 178 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Las Animas County as of Jan. 4, with many of those expressed as attributed to the Colorado Department of Corrections facility located in Trinidad.
“We currently have 13 staff members and 194 inmates that are currently active COVID-19 cases,” said DOC Public Information Officer Annie Skinner on Jan. 4. “We provide data on positive tests that is updated daily on our website.”
As of Jan. 5, inmate cases increased to 196 with 188 active cases. Fortunately, to date there have been no deaths at the Trinidad facility.
That website is https://www. colorado.gov/pacific/cdoc/covid19-faq-and-updates in addition to other information that can be found regarding operational changes at the facility. According to that information, staff are being tested daily using the BinaxNow rapid test, although they admit that it is not a replacement for an actual test which the department continues to do weekly.
Additionally, DOC says inmates are, “being tested regularly using PCR testing, and those results allow CDOC to properly cohort, quarantine, and monitor inmates,” their FAQ page stated.
Similar to the state, CDOC is operating based on a phase plan set up in three phases. Currently, with the case numbers being what they are, the Trinidad facility is set at “Phase III” which means cleaning frequency is increased and further reduces staffing to a level that will provide essential services.
“Compartmentalization will occur and offenders will receive services cell side whenever possible,” said DOC.
Although there are a high number of cases, the DOC said they are still providing mental health treatment to inmates no matter the state’s “phase level,” along with other activities to keep them from total isolation.
“Facilities have worked to continue educational and other programs either virtually or via written correspondence,” said DOC. “Whenever possible, facilities are looking for other ways they can provide comforts to incarcerated individuals, for example special meals, coffee stations, movies, or other options depending on the facility structure.”
The facilities are also cleaned “numerous times a day,” according to DOC with parole officers implementing precautionary cleaning procedures as well.
Similar to nursing homes, DOC stated in-person visitation currently is not being allowed, “given the current community spread across Colorado.”
While facilities have shown to have trouble with spreading the virus, DOC said they are processing inmates through a rapid release process that’s been going on since May of 2020.
“The rapid release process screens two inmate categories, those past Parole Eligibility Date (PED) and those near or at their Mandatory Release Date (MRD),” DOC said. “The inmates past PED are screened for all pertinent elements needed for the Parole Board to do a hearing and arrangements are made to hold a hearing in the county jail when all those elements are met. Inmates released by the Parole Board through this process are then scheduled for a rapid release through Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center (DRDC) where the inmate is brought in and processed through DRDC intake in one day and released that same day.”
In total, during the course of the pandemic, there have been 7,501 positive cases across all CDOC facilities, with 17,800 offenders tested. There are also currently 712 total active COVID-19 cases among offenders in Colorado.
As for the CDOC staff across the state, as of Jan 4 there were 195 employees on leave, 1,316 positive, and of those, 113 still active.