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JRCC sees coronavirus outbreak

Miles of razor wire surround the James River Correctional Center as seen in this file photo. Some 220 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the JRCC, which is more than half the inmate population. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The bulk of the 134 positive tests reported by the North Dakota Department of Health Wednesday are at the James River Correctional Center, according to statistics from the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website.

As of Nov. 18, there were 211 active cases of COVID-19 among the 413 residents of the medium-security prison on the grounds of the North Dakota State Hospital. Additionally, 20 staff members at JRCC have COVID-19. The Department of Corrections website reports 62 residents and 33 staff have already recovered from the disease. There have been no deaths reported due to COVID-19 in the North Dakota prison system.

"Unfortunately, JRCC is seeing the direct result of how fast this virus can spread, especially in a congregate setting," said Kayli Richards, director of communications and public information officer for the Department of Corrections, in an email. "Although we have continuously updated policies to keep with the fluidness of ever-changing new information from the CDC and the Department of Health, we cannot completely keep the virus out of our facilities."

Robin Iszler, unit administrator for Central Valley Health District, said the cases are included in the Stutsman County statistics.

"It makes us look worse but we still have a bad situation here," she said.


Richards said it was impossible to keep the coronavirus out of the James River Correctional Center.

'Our staff work diligently to protect those in our care by following all PPE (personal protective equipment) protocol," she said, "but staff still need to leave to go home, pick up their children, etc. and so it would be unrealistic to think that we would not be affected, especially with the rise in the rate of infection in our communities across the state."

Richards said masks were helpful but not 100% effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the facility.

The coronavirus continues to take a toll around the area.

The North Dakota Department of Health reported three new deaths in Stutsman County Wednesday, bringing the county's total deaths since the start of the pandemic in March to 34 people.

The deaths were reported as two men in their 80s and a woman in her 90s. Their deaths were part of 16 reported across North Dakota Wednesday.

The 16 deaths reported in North Dakota Wednesday were from eight counties and ranged from people in their 50s to their 90s. The death toll in North Dakota since the start of the pandemic now stands at 785 people.

The 134 positive tests reported for Stutsman County Wednesday were the most in a single day for Stutsman County. There have been three days with more than 100 positive tests all in the last seven days. The positive tests Wednesday were from 644 tests processed for a 22.4% daily positivity rate.


Other counties in the area include 11 positive tests reported in Barnes County, 10 in Dickey County, four in LaMoure County, three in Foster County, two in Kidder and McIntosh counties and one in Wells County.

There were 1,275 positive tests reported across North Dakota with Cass County reporting 330 positives. The Department of Health reported 8,488 tests processed for a daily positivity rate of 16.45%

There are 297 people hospitalized in North Dakota due to COVID-19 with 35 in intensive care units. There are another 87 people hospitalized primarily for other health problems, that have tested positive for the coronavirus.

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