Arizona prisons director says state quickly testing inmates for COVID-19

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

PHOENIX — The top official of Arizona’s state prisons said an initiative to test all inmates for coronavirus is being carried out at a faster rate than anticipated.

David Shinn, director of Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, told KTAR 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Friday he expects all state inmates to be tested for the virus by the first week of September.

Statewide PCR testing of inmates began about three weeks ago and was expected to take about 90 days for completion.

Instead, Shinn believes testing will be finished in 35-40 days because of an increase in resources and additional testing teams.

“We’re far more effective and efficient at moving forward with this now,” Shinn said.

Widespread testing has already been completed at four state prisons, Shinn added.

More than 12,500 inmates had been tested with about 1,600 positive cases as of Thursday, according to the department’s dashboard.

Some prisons have dealt with outbreaks, which Shinn attributed to asymptomatic spread and the increased testing efforts.

More than 500 inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex Tucson Whetstone Unit tested positive for the virus earlier this month.

ADCRR had previously implemented measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 including having staff wear cloth face coverings and heightening cleaning protocols.

Shinn said all incoming inmates are quarantined for 14 days and are tested at least twice before immersion into a facility.

“We’re fully capable of taking COVID positive inmates into our system,” Shinn said. “The crucial part is not to transport positives and negatives together. When we do, we literally contaminate the entire group.”

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