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Nebraska State Penitentiary under quarantine after 29 inmates test positive for coronavirus

From the Milestones in Nebraska's coronavirus fight series
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All housing units at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln have been placed under quarantine after 29 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said Sunday afternoon.

Corrections Director Scott Frakes said testing done Friday revealed the cases, which included inmates in four housing units. Because of the potential close contact some of those inmates may have had with individuals in other housing units, the entire facility has been placed under quarantine.

“We are acting out of an abundance of caution,” Frakes said in a news release. “This move will allow us to continue testing the remainder of the population.

“We are hoping for the same quick turnaround in results that we experienced the first time,” Frakes said. “If so, we can immediately isolate those who are positive from the rest of the population, thereby reducing transmission.”

Warden Michele Wilhelm said the entire facility will be under quarantine for at least two weeks.

“During that time we will monitor the status of those who are sick and continue testing any others who request it," she said.

Added Frakes: “The majority of people who tested positive have been asymptomatic. Hopefully, that translates to a quick recovery and we can resume normal operations at the penitentiary as soon as possible.”

Frakes said the inmate visitation program will remain closed across the agency while the penitentiary is in quarantine.

“We had planned to discuss reopening of visits and volunteer programs this coming week," he said. "It is obvious we made the right decision to shut down those activities when we did. With the current situation at NSP, and seeing the elevated number of cases in both Lancaster and Douglas counties, it is best to postpone reopening of those programs for now.”

There have also been 64 staff members in the Corrections Department who have tested positive since the pandemic hit the United States. Of those, 54 have recovered from the illness.

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Assistant city editor

Alex Lantz is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has had various roles at the Journal Star since 2012.

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