Lemon Creek Correctional Center, seen in this April 10, 2020 photo, has its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, according to Alaska Department of Corrections. The person who tested positive for COVID-19 is an unidentified corrections officer. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Lemon Creek Correctional Center, seen in this April 10, 2020 photo, has its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, according to Alaska Department of Corrections. The person who tested positive for COVID-19 is an unidentified corrections officer. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

LCCC takes action as corrections officer tests positive for coronavirus

It’s the first confirmed case in the Alaska DOC

A Lemon Creek Correctional Center corrections officer is the first Alaska Department of Corrections faculty member to test positive for the coronavirus, according to DOC.

The Department of Corrections announced the positive test Thursday night.

“DOC is working with the State Epidemiology team and are currently reviewing institutional video and building a list of close contacts — to include both staff and inmates,” said Sarah Gallagher, a DOC spokesperson, in an email. “DOC is working closely with state and public health officials to follow the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) containment models in an effort to quickly identify, notify and quarantine any individuals who may have been exposed.”

Gallagher confirmed the employee is a corrections officer, but it’s the state’s policy not to release any more information about patients. Part of the efforts of the state will be to identify and test anyone the patient may have come in contact with. No inmates have yet tested positive, Gallagher said.

“Following our plan, Lemon Creek provided cloth face coverings to all inmates and staff to prevent further possible transmission of the virus,” Gallagher said. “Fortunately, DOC has been heavily engaged in proactive mitigation efforts for weeks in anticipation of a positive case in a facility, and we were ready for this moment.”

[State confirms LCCC employee tests positive for COVID-19]

The Alaska DOC has been modeling possible disease outbreaks within its prisons since January, she said, putting together a working group to model possible infections and develop preventative measures in accordance with CDC’s best practices.

“Even prior to yesterday, inmate movement within the institution was already greatly restricted, cleaning efforts were enhanced, additional hygiene products had been made available, non-essential personnel, visitors and volunteers had been restricted from entering the building and only core facility operations continued,” Gallagher said.

Coordination with other law enforcement agencies, including the Juneau Police Department, will continue with some modifications to maintain safety for the community, staff, and inmates.

“This doesn’t change things too much on our end. In early March, we implemented some modifications to our handoff procedures when taking someone to the jail. The purpose at that time was to limit unnecessary contact whenever possible,” said Lt. Krag Campbell of the JPD in an email. “This was for both our staff and LCCC staff. This change, along with increased use of personal protection equipment, should allow our officers to maintain safety protocols.”

The prison is likewise modifying its operational protocols to keep from introducing infection into the population via a new inmate. LCCC currently has 85 staff and 219 inmates, Gallagher said.

[Have you responded to the census?]

“All newly remanded inmates are screened upon arrival, to include a temperature check and questions about symptoms and recent travel,” Gallagher said. “Remands may be quarantined or isolated before being introduced to the general population based on the outcome of that screening.”

LCCC superintendent Bob Cordle did not return calls for comment.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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