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An aerial image of Sterling Correctional Facility in northeast Colorado. (Google Images screenshot)

A large outbreak of the new coronavirus has been reported at a prison in northeast Colorado after weeks of efforts by law enforcement officials to reduce the risk of a cluster among jail and prison inmates statewide.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.


At least 138 inmates at the Sterling Correctional Facility, out of 255 test results that have been returned, tested positive for the virus. Tests of a dozen more inmates returned inconclusive results. The outbreak reported Friday is the largest to date in a prison or jail in Colorado.

The Sterling prison houses more than 2,400 inmates. About 475 symptomatic and asymptomatic inmates were tested. The rest of the results have not been returned.

“Given the insidious nature of this virus we had suspected that despite seeing a relatively low number of inmates with symptoms, the number of positives was potentially much higher,” Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Dean Williams said in a written statement. “That is exactly why we conducted this large scale testing, so that we can continue to isolate, monitor and treat any inmates who were positive and try to mitigate the spread to others inside the facility.”

Earlier in the week the state reported that a handful of inmates at the prison had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The facility has been on modified operations since April 14, meaning inmates are only allowed to leave their cells for limited periods.

“The facility has continued to undergo extensive cleaning multiple times a day and staff and inmates are all required to wear face coverings in the facility at all times,” the CDOC said in a news release. “All of the inmates on the east side of the facility are having temperature checks done twice daily as an additional screening measure.”

Other jails and prisons in Colorado have seen outbreaks of coronavirus.

Earlier this month, the Colorado Department of Corrections reported the first coronavirus case in its inmate population. The inmate was in isolation at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex after arriving from Denver’s City Jail on March 26.

The Weld County jail has had one coronavirus death. Eight total inmates have tested positive for the virus, as have six staff members.

More than 50 inmates in Denver’s jails have tested positive for the disease, The Denver Post reports.

Two community corrections facilities have also experiences outbreaks.

Two offenders and one staff member at the Arapahoe Community Treatment Center have tested positive for the disease.

Intervention Community Corrections Services in Weld County has 15 offenders who have tested positive, as well as two staff members.

The Colorado Sun —

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Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul