An inmate at Omaha’s Community Corrections Center is the first in the Nebraska prison system to test positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

The inmate was hospitalized Monday for unrelated health problems and was tested upon admission, Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Corrections, said in a press release. Corrections received notice of the test result Tuesday.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Omaha center is one of two community custody facilities operated by the state prison system. Community custody is the lowest custody level and the least restrictive facility. Inmates can participate in work opportunities and attend school and religious services with prior approval and without direct supervision. The facility houses 175 inmates.

Among the employers of work release inmates at the Omaha facility are two Omaha meatpacking plants.

Inmates at the facility are under quarantine while officials work to identify who the inmate has been in contact with. They will be confined to their rooms and will not be able to participate in work detail or work release jobs until they are medically cleared.

Inmates determined to have had close contact with the infected inmate will remain under quarantine until cleared by medical staff.

Frakes said he did not know how long the facility would remain under its current status.

Some advocates and family members of inmates have criticized corrections for its lack of testing of state inmates. The first three inmates tested were tested on Saturday and all tested negative.

Eight corrections employees across the prison system have tested positive.

“We have been preparing for this situation for the past two months and are well prepared to manage this situation,” said Ryan Mahr, warden at the Omaha facility.

The Department of Corrections, which runs the second-most-overcrowded system in the country, has barred visitors since March 16 and has been requiring staff to wear cloth masks for the past five weeks. Older, more vulnerable inmates have been separated from other prisoners, and gatherings in gyms and lunch rooms have been reduced, with social distancing in use.


Top 25 counties with the highest per-capita rates of COVID-19 infection

jwade@owh.com, 402-444-1067

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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