Advance Notice: Briefs

National Guard to test 7,500 U.P. prisoners for COVID-19 by Saturday

By: - May 4, 2020 12:07 pm

A National Guardsman helping set up a field hospital at the TCF Center | TCF Center photo

Starting Monday, the Michigan National Guard is stepping in to help the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) test inmates for COVID-10 at all six of the Upper Peninsula’s state prisons in just six days.

The U.P. correctional facilities have, so far, seen few tests. As of Sunday evening, just 108 tests had been done between all six facilities (which hold approximately 7,500 prisoners total). This accounts for about 2.4% of the total tests that have been done statewide at DOC facilities. 

But with the goal of testing one facility per day, all prisoners housed in the U.P. should be tested by the end of Saturday.

The 15, three-person teams of Michigan National Guard members, the majority of whom are U.P. residents, are starting with the 868-bed Baraga Correctional Facility on Monday. After that, they will move east across the peninsula to a different facility each day.

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The prisons up next in the queue are the Marquette Branch Prison, the Alger Correctional Facility, the Newberry Correctional Facility in Luce County, the Chippewa Correctional Facility and the Kinross Correctional Facility in Chippewa County.

Each team will have medical specialists from the Michigan National Guard. MDOC employees who are active members of the Guard at each facility will also provide assistance during the testing process.

“The medical professionals of the Michigan National Guard are proud to assist with COVID-19 testing in the Upper Peninsula,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “We are community members and neighbors, and we are always ready to assist in the fight against COVID-19.”

During the last week of April, the state began its first round of expanded COVID-19 testing at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson County. That prison-wide testing turned up 658 positive cases. The same system has started at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Branch County, which has so far uncovered 791 positive cases.

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No COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded at the state’s U.P. prisons, and so far, only two prisoners have tested positive (one at Newberry and one at Kinross). But large-scale testing may reveal a different story.

Once samples are collected, they will be transported to a lab for testing. The DOC says the results should be known within about 48 hours.

In total, the MDOC has recorded 2,025 positive cases statewide and 42 prisoner deaths.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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