Additional positive COVID-19 cases send Hutchinson Correctional Facility into lockdown

    Jeff Zmuda, Kansas corrections secretary, says 118 KDOC inmates are returning to Kansas after being held temporarily in Arizona. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

    Kansas Department of Corrections secretary Jeff Zmuda said Wednesday a lockdown has been initiated at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility central unit after additional staff and inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

    This week, 84 inmates and 10 staff tested positive, bringing the total number of people infected in the facility to 99 inmates and 17 staff since the pandemic began. None who tested positive reported any symptoms.

    Zmuda said KDOC is working with state health officials to prevent further spread of the virus.

    “(The Kansas Department of Health and Environment) has been on-site to evaluate the situation and work with us to determine the best course of action,” Zmuda said. “The measures taken today will help mitigate the risk of continued exposure at the facility, helping ensure the health and safety of our staff and residents.”

    As part of the lockdown, all inmates will remain locked in their cells and movement will be done in cohort groups. Essential inmate workers in laundry and food services will continue to operate on an adjusted schedule. Some inmates may be relocated to Lansing Correctional Facility’s COVID-19 medical unit.

    Hutchinson Correctional Facility has an inmate population of 1,884 and is Kansas’ second-oldest prison.

    “This facility is a bit different,” said KDHE secretary Lee Norman. “It doesn’t really have air handling for example. It’s more like passageways and windows. It’s going to be a problem facility.”

    Norman said KDHE would be making suggestions on how to move inmates so that COVID-19 patients are confined to certain units.

    “The cases have grown quite rapidly so we really have to pull out all the stops,” Norman said, “But this is a formula that works.”