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New coronavirus outbreak reported at Alaska’s largest prison

Alaska’s largest prison has experienced the latest outbreak of the coronavirus within the state’s correctional system.

The Alaska Department of Corrections said 22 inmates and five staff at Goose Creek Correctional Center tested positive for COVID-19, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

It is not clear how many inmates, if any, displayed symptoms of the virus, but none have required hospitalization, department spokeswoman Sarah Gallagher said Monday.

There are now two large COVID-19 outbreaks at the state’s prisons, officials said. The other is at Fairbanks Correctional Center, an overcrowded facility where the state in mid-October said 33 people had contracted the virus.

The Goose Creek outbreak was reported in one of the prison’s 10 self-contained units, each with 64 cells and a day room with couches and a television. The medium-security prison for men has a capacity of 1,535 inmates and there are currently about 1,350 housed there.

One inmate tested positive Oct. 28 and testing throughout the unit with 119 inmates revealed the additional cases, Gallagher said.

The inmates who tested positive are in isolation in a different part of the prison and medical staff check them multiple times daily. Nearly 100 other inmates from the unit have been placed in quarantine, Gallagher said.

Goose Creek is located on Point MacKenzie about an hour west of Wasilla, where coronavirus cases have increased along with other parts of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Fairbanks also continues to see high numbers of new cases.

“As we see these cases just surging in the community, it’s not a surprise to see it showing up in our institutions,” Gallagher said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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