WASECA, Minn. (KEYC) — A couple of weeks ago, the Federal Correctional Institution in Waseca started to see its number of cases climb at an alarming rate.
“We had zero active cases when we were sent a bus comprised of entirely COVID positive inmates,” explained Ambjor Anderson, chief steward of the Federal Workers Union in Waseca. “We had only three or four recovered inmates at that time who had coronavirus prior.”
Anderson says the last few months have been frustrating inside the prison for both workers and inmates.
“Isolation is difficult,” said Anderson. “We’ve had to set up several quarantine ranges within our institution, as it is a prison and social distancing is nearly impossible. We’ve been guiding them to proper hand hygiene, masks, keeping away from each other and not sharing food. But when you live in communal settings where you’re sharing bathrooms, you’re sharing living spaces, that is extremely difficult.”
At the top of Anderson’s list of frustrations is the continuous transfer of inmates from prison to prison, with in-person visits slated to start up in October.
And with COVID spreading inside the facility, she says the Minnesota Department of Health and the Federal Bureau of Prisons don’t appear to be on the same page.
“Generally what we do is we try to reach out to the facility and we talk to one of their medical unit staff, so we can learn about cases and transmission,” said Jennifer Zipprich, lead of MDH Congregate Living Settings and Correctional Settings. “At the State, we receive every lab positive result through our surveillance system, but then we’ve also been communicating with the federal facilities here in Minnesota to get cases reported that way too.”
On Wednesday, the prison had 94 inmates and three staff members with COVID-19, Thursday it had 76 inmates and two staff members and it currently has 86 positive inmates and two staff members.
The Bureau of Prisons reports on its website the Federal Correctional Institution in Waseca has an inmate population of 605.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons issued the following statement regarding the COVID-19 situation at FCI Waseca.