More Than 900 Correctional Officers To Be Tested For COVID-19 At Yuma Prison

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2020 - 6:20pm
Updated: Friday, May 22, 2020 - 7:30am

Following a recent outbreak at the state prison in Yuma, the Arizona Department of Corrections will test more than 900 correctional officers for COVID-19. The pending tests represent the largest commitment the department has made to screening for the disease since the beginning of the pandemic.

As of Thursday, 69 correctional officers self-reported positive results for COVID-19.

The state prison at Yuma recently saw infections spike after contracted food workers tested positive.

In response, state Rep. Charlene Fernandez says she connected Department of Corrections Director David Shinn with Amanda Aguirre, president and CEO of the Regional Center for Border Health.

Fernandez says she wants to protect the health and well-being of the prison staff in her district.

“It’s very important to me because I live in Yuma,” she said. “That’s where I shop, go to church. It’s where my grandchildren go to school. And many of the correctional officers live in our community. And I want to make sure they’re safe.”

Fernandez said identifying officers who are positive with COVID-19 will help prevent them spreading the virus inside the prison as well as in the community. She said ADC should increase the testing of the inmates at the Yuma prison as well.

Aguirre said she is preparing to test more than 900 correctional officers but there had been no discussion of testing inmates. She said she would be solidifying plans with ADC in a meeting on Friday, but Aguirre is eager to begin the testing.

“We want to make sure that they have the workforce to maintain the state prisons and keep the inmates safe and secure,” Aguirre said. “So we are very glad to be a part of this effort.”

Aguirre said the Regional Center for Border Health is a nonprofit that serves Yuma, La Paz and Mohave counties.

“We focus on rural communities and try to provide affordable access to health care and training,” she said.

Aguirre said she is meeting with the warden of the Yuma prison on Friday.

The Department of Corrections did not respond to a request for comment on the plans to test officers at Yuma.

Aguirre said she is hoping to begin testing at the Yuma prison on Tuesday.

“My team can set up up to seven drive-through tents and provide the nasopharyngeal exam for COVID-19,” she said. “Hopefully we can finish the work in two to three days.”

Aguirre said correctional officers would be billed through their insurance for the exams. She said the test results would take another three days, and she would provide them to the Department of Corrections.

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