Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

The Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Wash. Tri-City Herald file

Nearly 220 staff and inmates have now tested positive for COVID-19 at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

The Washington state Department of Corrections last week brought in the Washington National Guard to help administer a larger swath of coronavirus testing.

The results, as of Tuesday, show 171 inmates and 47 staff members have tested positive at the Connell prison about 30 miles north of Pasco.

Two inmates died after contracting the respiratory virus: Victor Bueno, 68, on June 17 and William Bryant, 72, on June 22.

Coyote Ridge has by far the most serious outbreak in state prisons.

The only other facility with a significant outbreak has been at the Monroe Correctional Complex, where 19 inmates and 11 staff members tested positive. Monroe has reported one death, 65-year-old correctional officer Berisford Morse, in mid-May from COVID complications.

All employees in Coyote Ridge’s medium-security complex and the minimum-security unit, along with all inmates in the medium-security area, will now be regularly tested.

A Department of Corrections memo Tuesday said that serial testing of the employees began Monday.

Coyote Ridge staff members are tested before their shift, and testing will repeated every seven days until further notice. Only staff members who have previously tested positive will be exempt from further testing.

All inmates in the medium-security area also are be tested regularly. It was unclear what testing was being done on incarcerated individuals in minimum-security.

Inmates who test negative will be tested a second time, then will remain housed together. A small number of those inmates who receive negative tests after being isolated for 14 days may be moved to other facilities.

A memo from Superintendent Jeffrey Uttecht said that temporary housing has been created at Coyote Ridge to allow inmates who have tested positive to be housed together.

Uttecht said that beds have been placed in the prison’s chapel and recreation area. There also are two 75-bed tents in the yard that are equipped with day heating and air conditioning, in addition to dayroom and meal areas.

The corrections department’s incident management team and corrections staff members from around Washington are at Coyote Ridge to assist during the outbreak with increased staffing needs.

That includes managing 1,889 inmates who are in quarantine and 184 who are in isolation.

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