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Though increasing numbers of hospitalizations and staffing concerns are straining hospitals across Missouri as the COVID-19 pandemic surges, a spokesperson for the company contracted to provide health care for the state's prisons said there's no expectation that outside hospitals will stop receiving offenders as needed.

Tennessee-based Corizon Health Inc. has been the health care provider for the state's prison system since 1992.

Corizon Health spokesperson Eve Hutcherson told the News Tribune on Monday: "As we always have, throughout the pandemic Corizon continues to work directly with community hospitals near the facilities we serve to coordinate patient services as the individual patients' situations may require. The hospitals are receiving offenders only when services are required beyond what Corizon provides within the facilities, and we anticipate that continuing."

Across the state's 20 facilities, there were approximately 20 contracted staff isolating at home while recovering from COVID-19 — out of more than 1,000 contracted staff in total between Corizon and Gateway Foundation Corrections, the latter of which provides services including substance abuse treatment and special needs, DOC spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said Friday.

"Any offender whose condition is serious enough to require a ventilator, intensive care or a similar level of treatment is transferred to a hospital," Pojmann said. "The vast majority of offenders with COVID have had mild or no symptoms, but we do have eight offenders currently hospitalized at various locations around the state. Some of them are hospitalized for treatment of other medical conditions but also have tested positive for COVID at some point."

Asked what the department and Corizon's plans would be if transfers to nearby communities' hospitals no longer were an option, Pojmann said: "I'm not a health care professional and don't work for Corizon, so I'm afraid I can't speculate about a hypothetical future scenario."

As of Friday morning — the most recent online update — of more than 63,000 coronavirus tests of offenders and staff since March, DOC reported 11.1 percent of the tests had come back positive.

Large outbreaks continued at several facilities.

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Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center had the highest active case count in the state's prisons — 233 active cases among offenders and 45 active cases among staff. Seventy offenders had recovered, as had 15 staff.

At Jefferson City Correctional Center, there were 111 active cases among offenders and 36 among staff. Fifty-four offenders and 35 staff had recovered.

At Algoa Correctional Center, there were 39 active cases among offenders and 17 among staff. Eighty-seven offenders and 23 staff had recovered.

At Tipton Correctional Center, there were 11 active cases among offenders and 28 active cases among staff. Thirty-six offenders and nine staff had recovered.

There were no active cases among offenders at Cremer Therapeutic Community Center in Fulton, and four active cases among staff there. Three offenders and two staff members had recovered.

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