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story.lead_photo.caption Algoa Correctional Center is shown in this photograph taken Friday, July 6, 2018. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The number of active COVID-19 cases at Algoa and Jefferson City correctional centers has grown — most dramatically at Algoa, which in about three weeks has gone from one identified active case among offenders to 84, the fifth-most among Missouri's prisons.

Earlier Tuesday, there had been 77 active cases among offenders reported at Algoa — at that time, the fourth-most among the state's prisons — according to DOC's online COVID-19 data, which was updated in the afternoon.

The number of reported active cases among staff at Algoa also increased in the afternoon by three to a total of 17.

The Missouri Department of Correction announced Sept. 24 that visiting at Algoa was suspended until further notice because surveillance testing for coronavirus had found a positive case in an offender.

At that point, the facility had previously had two staff and an offender test positive — all of whom had since recovered.

Tuesday afternoon, of the 106 cases cumulatively reported since March among staff and offenders at Algoa, more than 95 percent were active — the highest of any of the state's prisons.

The 22 facilities listed in DOC's data have collectively had 3,442 cases since March — 1,387, or 40.3 percent, of which were active as of Tuesday afternoon.

At Jefferson City Correctional Center, there were 20 active cases among staff and 31 among offenders as of Tuesday afternoon. A further 10 staff had recovered, as had three offenders.

As of Sept. 24, there had been a total of 14 active cases at JCC — seven among staff and seven among offenders. Two staff had recovered.

DOC spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said Tuesday that most people testing positive at both facilities are asymptomatic.

Pojmann did not immediately provide the test positivity rate.

She did explain what led to increased testing at Algoa and JCC: "Wastewater testing has found an increase in the presence of the virus at our facilities in Jefferson City, which has prompted us to do sample testing and boxed-in testing. We use sample testing to help identify a housing unit where an outbreak might be underway and then use boxed-in testing to identify cases within those housing units."

"Everyone who tests positive or is a close contact of someone who tests positive is relocated to an isolation unit. Before the pandemic began, we were in the process of shutting down housing units at Algoa, Boonville and other facilities, and we have used these empty units as isolation units since the pandemic struck," Pojmann added.

Offenders who test positive are isolated until they test negative, according to the DOC's post-test procedures.

Staff who test positive go home on leave and must test negative twice before returning to work.

All staff who have close contact with someone who has tested positive stay home for two weeks of quarantine.

"We do have a staffing shortage, which is more pronounced in some parts of the state than in others. Staff working at these facilities or nearby facilities volunteer to work overtime," Pojmann said. "This includes staff who have are trained and certified as corrections officers, even if they are currently are working in different roles."

She did not provide any specific numbers.

A face cover order is in effect at all DOC facilities, Pojmann said.

"All offenders and staff have been issued at least two face covers each, which can be hand washed or laundered, and all offenders and staff are provided with new face covers upon request," she said.

Elsewhere in the state's prison system, Farmington Correctional Center was the individual facility Tuesday with the most cases cumulatively since March — 589 — and FCC also had the highest number of active cases, with 300 among offenders and 53 among staff.

Almost 60 percent of FCC's cumulative cases were active as of Tuesday afternoon.

In Mid-Missouri, there was one active case among staff and no active cases among offenders reported at Cremer Therapeutic Community Center in Fulton.

One staff member had previously recovered, as had 10 offenders — putting the cumulative total of cases reported there since March 12.

As of Sept. 24, there had been one active case among staff and eight active cases among offenders at Cremer.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there had been seven active cases among staff and 63 active cases among offenders at Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center.

Ten staff had previously recovered, as had 41 offenders — putting the cumulative total of cases reported there since March at 121.

As of Sept. 24, there had been 10 active cases among staff and 15 active cases among offenders at FRDC.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there had been 13 active cases among staff and two active cases among offenders at Tipton Correctional Center.

Seven staff had previously recovered, as had 30 offenders — putting the cumulative total of cases reported there since March at 52.

As of Sept. 24, there had been six active cases among staff and 18 active cases among offenders in Tipton.

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