Two prisoners in custody at Lemon Creek Correctional Center have tested positive for the coronavirus, Oct. 9, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Two prisoners in custody at Lemon Creek Correctional Center have tested positive for the coronavirus, Oct. 9, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

2 Lemon Creek inmates among city’s recent cases

The inmates were quarantined upon being admitted per prison policy.

Two recently admitted inmates at Lemon Creek Correctional Center tested positive for the coronavirus, said a Department of Corrections spokesperson.

“We did have four remands come up as positive tests. It’s not the first remand positive at Lemon Creek and it won’t be the last,” said DOC spokesperson Sarah Gallagher in a phone interview. “Two of those were released from custody and two are still in custody at Lemon Creek.”

The two cases were part of eight new cases reported by City and Borough of Juneau on Thursday. On Friday, CBJ reported five new cases — none at Lemon Creek Correctional Center — and said the city’s most recent cluster has grown to 15 cases. The city said in a news release it was in the process of setting up Centennial Hall as a quarantine center and conducting testing at Housing First, AWARE and the Glory Hall.

All new inmates at LCCC, also called remands, are tested on entry and quarantined for 14 days before being released into the general population, Gallagher said. The number of new inmates who test positive for the coronavirus across the state is slowly increasing as the community spread rate gets higher, Gallagher said.

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“At this point, the process is working. We’re not surprised to see more remands coming in with COVID,” Gallagher said. “We continue to stay flexible and as covid changes so will we. That’s why the remand testing is in place: it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”

Alaska isn’t alone in having a growing number of inmates with the coronavirus, Gallagher said, but as a state, it has one of the lowest numbers of confirmed cases.

“Last time we looked, compared to all other states, we were one of the top states. We’re number 6 for least amount of cases,” Gallagher said. “Alaska is unique in that we are a unified correctional system. We don’t have county jails and state penitentiaries. We house everyone.”

The last outbreak at the beginning of of the pandemic was a bloom among correctional officers that swelled to 11 confirmed cases. At that time, no inmates were infected. At this point, Gallagher said, LCCC’s operations don’t need to adjust, but that will change if necessary.

“As COVID changes, so will department policies,” Gallagher said. “We take our cues from the city and the state, from CDC and public health. We’ll keep doing whatever needs to be done to keep Alaskans safe.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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