frakesmask (copy)

Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Corrections, wears one of the masks that prison staff will be required to wear to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. The masks are being made by inmates.

A second inmate at the Community Corrections Center-Omaha has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Friday.

Twenty inmates within the state’s prison system have been tested so far, with two testing positive, 12 testing negative and six results still pending.

The second inmate to test positive had close contact with the first, who was hospitalized Monday for unrelated health problems and tested there.

“The majority of inmates currently undergoing testing are housed at the Community Corrections Center-Omaha and were determined to have close contact with the first inmate who went to the hospital,” Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Corrections, said in a press release. “We are also testing inmates who will be discharging from CCC-O during the facility quarantine, as a precaution.”

The Omaha center is one of two community custody facilities operated by the state.

Community custody is the lowest custody level and the least restrictive facility. Inmates can go to work and attend school and religious services with prior approval and without direct supervision.

The Omaha facility houses 175 inmates.

Among the employers of work-release inmates at the facility are two Omaha meatpacking plants. Coronavirus outbreaks have been reported at several Douglas County food or meat processing plants.

The Omaha facility remains under quarantine, and staff members who had close contact with the inmates who tested positive are at home.

They will be allowed to return to work after a 14-day quarantine and medical clearance.

Frakes said the department also is reviewing video recordings to look for anyone who had close contact with the person who tested positive, conducting daily temperature checks and monitoring for any other symptoms.

Some advocates and family members of inmates have criticized Corrections for its lack of testing of state inmates and are fearful that the coronavirus could spread within Nebraska’s crowded prisons and jails, similar to outbreaks that have occurred in other states. Last week, three inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary became the first in the state to be tested.

Eight corrections employees across the prison system have tested positive.

Frakes said preventive measures such as having staff wear masks, prohibiting visitors, deep cleaning facilities and implementing health screenings have helped the state prison system ward off outbreaks until now, but he warned that the fight isn’t over.

“We are not out of this by any means,” he said. “We will continue to be aggressive in our efforts to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19.”

Reporter - Education

Erin is an enterprise reporter for the World-Herald. Previously, Erin covered education. Follow her on Twitter @eduff88. Phone: 402-444-1210.

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