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Oregon State Penitentiary employee diagnosed with coronavirus

ODOC said it has notified via letter employees who have come in close contact with the person.
Credit: John Rosman/OPB
View from the chapel library at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

The Oregon Department of Corrections Wednesday announced an employee at the Oregon State Penitentiary has tested positive for coronavirus.  

The department notified all of its staff about the diagnosis via email Wednesday morning.

It has not released the employee’s job role, gender, age or any other identifying information due to privacy concerns.

Though, the department said it is working with the Oregon Health Authority to include the employee in the coronavirus demographic information OHA releases to the public. 

ODOC said it has notified via letter employees who have come in close contact with the person.

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The Oregon Justice Resource Center issued a statement Wednesday saying the ODOC need to do more to protect inmates. The resource center said it had also identified at least 1,400 adults in custody who are older and at an elevated risk to contract coronavirus. 

“Prisons and jails can be death traps when a disease such as COVID-19 breaks out,” the OJRC said in its statement. “Reducing the prison population would help most in allowing those who remain to follow the advice of public health experts.”

As the coronavirus has spread in Oregon, advocates, attorneys, judges and law enforcement have all said correctional institutions correctional institutions could prove to be significant incubators for COVID-19, infecting inmates, staff and their surrounding communities

The OJRC has called on Gov. Kate Brown to commute the sentences of people at highest risk for the disease who are not a danger to the community.

This article was originally published by Oregon Public Broadcasting, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.