ANAMOSA, Iowa — More than 450 inmates in Anamosa State Penitentiary have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since Wednesday, as an outbreak roars through the facility.
The Iowa Department of Corrections late Thursday afternoon updated its COVID-19 webpage, showing that 476 inmates at the Jones County facility have tested positive. That was 454 more than were listed as of Wednesday.
More than one-third of the 1,283 inmates who have been tested at the prison now have the coronavirus.
Additionally, eight more staff members were diagnosed since Wednesday, raising the number of active staff cases to 24. Thirteen staff previously contracted COVID-19 but have since recovered.
The outbreak is easily the biggest in the state prison system and, as of Thursday night, accounted for 79% of the 601 active cases in Iowa state prisons.
Calls seeking comment from prison officials throughout Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful.
The full scope of the outbreak has not been reflected on the state’s COVID-19 website yet, though Jones County’s total confirmed cases count did climb by 238 from 5 p.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Thursday.
Jenna Lovaas, of Jones County Public Health Department, said the county is dealing with three other outbreaks as well — at Anamosa Care Center and an assisted-living facility and a group home that Lovaas would not identify.
“Ever since about Thursday last week, it’s been pretty bad,” she said.
Anamosa Care Center was the only Jones County facility on the state’s COVID-19 outbreak map for long-term-care centers as of Thursday.
That was when Anamosa Care Center first was added to the list, though the state reported it already had 36 confirmed cases.
“Residents and staff are receiving medical treatment and will remain in isolation for at least 14 days,” said facility Administrator Casi Strube in an email to the Telegraph Herald. “We are in contact with our residents’ families and are doing everything we can to support them. We are also doing everything we can to ensure we stop the spread of this within our facility and have activated our emergency response procedures. We are working with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps at this time.”
Prior to Thursday’s surge in cases, Lovaas said the county was averaging about six or seven new cases per day, but the numbers started to climb late last week. The county had 16 new confirmed cases in the 24-hour period that ended at 5 p.m. Oct. 29, then 22 the following day and 36 on Halloween — which was then a 24-hour record.
The state is reporting a 14-day positivity rate for Jones County of 28.8%, the third-highest in the state.
Lovaas pointed to another contributing factor to COVID-19’s spread in the community — a recent bowling tournament that resulted in the closure of bowling alleys in Anamosa and in Bellevue in neighboring Jackson County.