DES MOINES — Iowa authorities have been taking steps to cut the number of inmates in Iowa’s prisons and jails amid the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office said Monday that the confirmed state total has hit 105 cases with the addition of 15 more reported in nine counties.
Sunday’s figure was 90, including two in Pottawattamie County.
The disease caused by the new coronavirus has yet to be confirmed in any Iowa prison or jail, officials told the Des Moines Register.
But it poses a particular menace to overcrowded facilities, ACLU spokeswoman Veronica Fowler said.
“There is no ability to self-distance. Meanwhile, people are coming into the jail, all the time people are coming in, coming out. You really have just a tinderbox for COVID-19 to spread rapidly,” Fowler said.
The Iowa Corrections Department is expediting the placement of about 700 prisoners who are approved for parole or work release, according to spokesman Cord Overton.
Maj. Bryce Schmidt, Scott County Jail administrator, said a judge has reduced terms for some elderly inmates, some inmates with respiratory problems and some close to finishing their sentences.
State public defender Jeff Wright said the Waterloo office reached an agreement with the Black Hawk County attorney for the early release of about 30 inmates.
For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The economic fallout from the outbreak is being felt in Iowa. Winnebago Industries, based in Forest City, halted production to protect workers from coronavirus exposure and to adjust production levels.
Winnebago, which employees about 5,000 people, has production facilities in Iowa, Indiana, Oregon, Minnesota and Florida. The company said Monday that production will cease until at least April 12. Benefits and base pay will continue for the first two weeks.