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Virus outbreak hits prison hard

FRANKFORT

A Kentucky prison has been hit by hundreds of additional coronavirus cases — accounting for nearly half the statewide total reported Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said.

Testing of inmates and staff at Green River Correctional Complex revealed more than 300 additional virus cases, the governor said at his daily briefing. Beshear called it a “concerning situation” as his administration takes steps to contain the virus’s spread at the western Kentucky prison. When factoring in previous cases, the infection rate has reached about 40% at the prison, he said.

Inmates are being divided into housing units based on their health status, J. Michael Brown, secretary of Beshear’s executive Cabinet, said earlier this week.

Inmates testing positive will be housed in one unit to isolate them from the rest of the prison population, Brown said. Another separate unit will house inmates who tested negative but were exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, he said. Those who tested negative and had no direct exposure to those with the virus will be housed together.

Beshear reported 625 coronavirus cases statewide Tuesday, a one-day high in Kentucky. That raised the statewide total to more than 5,820 cases since the pandemic began. The governor reported 14 more virus-related deaths Tuesday.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, even death.

At least one Letcher County man is an inmate at Green River. The man, who is in his 30’s, was among an initial group of fewer than 10 prisoners who were diagnosed with COVID-19 about a month ago.

The inmate, who is from the Whitesburg area, told members of his family that COVID-19 is by far the worst illness from which he has suffered. He said he still tested positive for the virus last week, nearly a month after the initial diagnosis.

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