By Carol Stiffler

As of Sunday, August 9, 27 inmates and two staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 in a new outbreak at the Newberry Correctional Facility.

The first case was found in a staff member on August 1; prisoner testing began on August 4.

The outbreak was reported by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

“We have had 119 total results return so far from the testing of the units that was conducted last week, and that included 27 positive results and 91 negative results, along with 1 test that was inconclusive and will require re-testing,” said Holly Kramer, communications representative with the Michigan Department of Corrections. “To date, there have been 30 total positive prisoner cases at the facility, and that includes a single positive result that returned earlier this year, and two recent positive results that returned prior to unit test results.”

Additional testing is taking place at the Newberry facility today.

The outbreak comes at a time when prisoner cases had all but died down across the state. The Michigan

Department of Corrections took steps earlier to prevent the spread of the virus, mandating that all inmates and employees must wear masks at all times. Visitation was suspended. Increased cleaning using bleach had been taking place, and fewer inmates were eating meals at the same time to reduce exposure.

Regular hand washing and social distancing is recommended. Additionally, prison units are quarantined together and not allowed to interact with other units.

Exposure from staff remained a threat, though employees were also required to wear masks. Free testing has been offered to all staff members and will be offered again on Friday.

The Newberry facility is the only prison in the Upper Peninsula currently experiencing an outbreak. Prior to this, the facility had only had one confirmed case in an inmate. There was no comment available from the facility at this time.

The Michigan National Guard completed a sweep of mass testing in all Upper Peninsula prisons in May, testing the 7,500 inmates in the region’s facilities. At that time, all 1,043 prisoners who were in the Newberry Correctional Facility at the time agreed to be tested and all were found to be negative.

Since then, the virus had largely died down in the prison community.

It is notable that elsewhere in Luce County, three new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday, August 10. The identity of the patients has not been revealed, and it is not known if they are related in any way to the virus cases at the prison.

Across the state, the Michigan Department of Corrections has reported 4,408 confirmed and five probably cases of COVID-19, and 69 inmates have died. Three staff members in Michigan prisons have also died.