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A cell at the Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterling, which has reported more than 500 inmates sickened by COVID-19, including three who died. (Gazette file photo)

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Sterling Correctional Facility in northeastern Colorado remains in the grip of a growing coronavirus outbreak, according to new data showing a jump of more than 100 confirmed cases for the second day in a row, rising to 432 sickened inmates.

The prison east of Denver is home to the state’s largest COVID-19 outbreak, with about 17% of the prison’s roughly 2,500 inmates battling the illness.

The Sterling prison was also home to the only two Colorado inmates known to have died of the novel coronavirus. Officials Monday announced the death of a 61-year-old inmate, and an 86-year-old inmate died May 1. Their names were not released.

Authorities had warned the number of confirmed cases at Sterling was likely to spike as results trickle in from mass testing.

The number of positive cases remained unchanged at other facilities in the prison system, according to an online state prisons database current through Monday.


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The Crowley County Correctional Facility in Ordway east of Pueblo has 37 positive cases, the database shows. The Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, which determines where newly sentenced inmates will be placed, has one active case. One inmate has recovered from the illness at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex.

The number of positive cases among prisons employees rose by two to 16 active cases, the new data show.

The rising toll of coronavirus illnesses at Sterling has sparked increasing criticism by inmate advocates who say precautions haven’t been sufficient to stem the spread of the disease among incarcerated people.

The ACLU of Colorado and other groups have long warned that the prison system risks becoming a “petri dish” of disease, potentially sickening not only inmates but employees who can then spread the illness through communities.

Those groups say the state can safely release inmates who are at minimal risk of reoffending, to facilitate social distancing and prevent prisons from devolving into “death traps.”

Sterling Correctional Facility implemented various restrictions in mid-April. Inmates at the prison have been kept in their cells except to shower and use restrooms, and meals and medications are delivered to inmates in their living units.

Cleaning has been stepped up, and employees and vendors are screened before entering, including having their temperatures taken, prison officials say.

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