TOPEKA (AP) — Operational changes have been implemented at Lansing Correctional Center — the largest prison in Kansas — after an inmate and a fourth staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, state prison officials said.
The staff member is a male over the age of 20 and the inmate is a male over 50, but the Kansas Department of Corrections released no other information about them in its announcement late Saturday. Prison officials announced on March 31 that three staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Sunday, the state has confirmed 747 infections and 22 deaths, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said. The number is 49 cases higher than the 698 on Saturday, with one more death. At least 183 people have been hospitalized in Kansas with the virus.
Most infected people develop mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within three weeks, such as fever and cough. But older adults and people with existing health problems are particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Lansing also is dealing with absenteeism, as 40 of its 310 frontline uniformed officers are out for reasons related to the virus, an agency spokesman told The Wichita Eagle. Corrections Secretary Jeff Zmuda said that includes ill employees, those who have pre-existing conditions that put them at risk, those caring for children home from school or others who are monitoring at-risk family members.
In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the prison is restricting the inmates to their units, and said movements required for jobs or recreation will occur mostly in groups of the same unit, prison officials said. Staffing also has been changed because of the increased absences.
Several groups, including the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Midwest Innocence Project, have urged Kansas to release medically fragile and older adult inmates, to make social distancing easier and to protect inmates who have underlying health conditions.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt has said the state isn't planning to release inmates early, calling that “a last resort.”