A total of 104 inmates and five staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus at Cottonwood’s North Idaho Correctional Institution in a September outbreak reported Monday at the facility where 260 men are incarcerated.

Of the 104 cases, 16 inmates showed symptoms and none of them needed to be hospitalized, said Jeff Ray, public information officer for Idaho Department of Correction, in an email.

All of the 16 were sent to Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino because that facility has medical staff on site around the clock, compared with 16 hours a day at NICI, he said.

Four of the 16 who were moved temporarily to Orofino have returned to Cottonwood.

“All of the asymptomatic, positive prisoners are housed on the same unit and isolated from the rest of the incarcerated population,” Ray said.

Ray emailed the Tribune in response to an inquiry about possible cases at the institution. Tara Macke, a spokeswoman for Public Health – Idaho North Central District, referred all questions about the outbreak to Ray.

She declined to comment about if the cases from NICI were included in the statistics for north central Idaho.

Idaho County, where NICI is located, showed 91 new cases Monday, all men, according to the Idaho North Central District website.

Most of them, or 42, were between the ages of 18 and 29, while 39 were in their 30s, nine were in their 40s and one was in his 50s.

The first four inmates at NICI tested positive for COVID-19 after showing coronavirus symptoms at sick call on Sept. 2. They were immediately isolated from the rest of the population at the facility, Ray said.

On Wednesday, all prisoners and staff were tested. Five of the facility’s 78 employees tested positive and three of them did not show any symptoms, he said.

The outbreak has had a limited impact on the Orofino prison. Only one male inmate and one staff member tested positive in a mass testing last week of that facility’s 560 prisoners and 143 staff members, Ray said.

The inmate was a transfer from NICI because he had been dropped from the facility’s rider program, he said.

Both facilities are taking numerous precautions, including doing extra cleaning. NICI has not accepted any new prisoners since mid-August.

Staff members and inmates are generally required to wear cloth masks, with exceptions being made in certain instances such as when employees are working alone in their offices.

Staff are screened for symptoms prior to entering either facility. At NICI, prisoners from different housing units are not being permitted to interact.

“Staff working in the (units) with COVID-positive prisoners or where there are suspected cases are required to wear N-95 masks,” Ray said. “We are following CDC guidelines for correctional facilities.”

Williams may be contacted at ewiliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

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