COLDWATER, Mich. — According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, there are close to 800 cases of the coronavirus at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater.
"About 55 percent of the total prison population tested positive," said MDOC spokesperson Chris Gautz during a Zoom interview on Monday afternoon. "And when we looked into the numbers a little bit deeper what we found was that of the prisoners who tested positive, about 80 percent roughly were asymptomatic."
Gautz said the facility houses 1400 prisoners and initial results showed that 618 tests returned negative.
However, they began testing last Tuesday after 80-100 prisoners complained of experiencing the symptoms, he said. They were the first ones tested and the first confirmed cases.
"Our concern was we had potentially asymptomatic prisoners walking around, spreading the virus unknowingly, especially at Lakeland where half of the prisoners there are elderly or who have chronic-care medical conditions," Gautz said. "So we were incredibly nervous about doing everything we could to protect the prisoner population there."
He said that 12 prisoners have died from the virus.
He added that of the 29 prisons in the state, Lakeland was one of the first tested because the young prisoners work closely with the elderly inmates there.
"We didn’t want the case where we had potentially younger prisoners whose job it is to push the older prisoners in their wheelchairs to and from their medical appointments, or to the chow hall, or just around the yard, that's their job during the day is to help with these older prisoners," Gautz said. "You wouldn’t want to have a case where one of those younger prisoners potentially spreading it because they’re testing positive and they are positive and they don’t know it."
Gautz said all those who have tested positive have been housed together and those with serious medical conditions have been taken to major hospitals.