Northwest State Correctional Facility
Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. Photo by Sawyer Loftus/VTDigger

The Department of Corrections reported Friday morning that 13 people incarcerated at the Northwest State Correctional Facility and three staff members at the prison have tested positive for Covid-19.

The St. Albans facility has been in lockdown since Jan. 28, when an employee first tested positive for the virus. The new cases were identified during follow-up testing on Feb. 9 and 10.

On Feb. 4, the department reported four initial individuals incarcerated at NSWCF as having tested positive for the virus, one of whom is now in the hospital “for Covid-related reasons.”

Department spokesperson Rachel Feldman said the outbreak appears to be contained to two of the prison’s 10 units. In total, there are 193 people incarcerated at the facility.

Of the 13 positive cases among incarcerated individuals, three are being housed collectively in a “negative pressure” cell — a room that doesn’t share air supply with other units — while 10 are being housed in individual isolation units.

Feldman said housing decisions are determined by the prison superintendent and medical staff based on a number of factors, including which risk groups an individual falls into and how old that person is.

Contact tracing is currently underway at the prison, with people identified as close contacts of the individuals who tested positive being placed in medical quarantine.

A “rapid response team,” made up of staff from the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health, plans to meet to make recommendations about follow-up testing once contact tracing is complete.

This is the third-largest outbreak seen in Vermont prisons since the beginning of the pandemic, after the 185 Vermonters incarcerated at a private prison in Mississippi who tested positive for the virus in August, and the 45 that tested positive in St. Albans in March and April.

Additionally Friday, the Department of Corrections reported that one staff member at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield and one staff member at the Burlington Probation and Parole Office had also tested positive for the virus.

Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury is on full lockdown awaiting results of testing performed Thursday, and Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington is out of lockdown and has returned to modified operations after tests came back negative for all staff and residents.

The department determined that Southern State could also return to modified operations after being on lockdown, though it is still awaiting 14-day testing results. Officials reported that negative results after seven days and a low-exposure risk to the incarcerated population made a full lockdown unnecessary.

Ellie French is a general assignment reporter and news assistant for VTDigger. She is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she interned for the Boston Business Journal and served as the editor-in-chief...