St. Cloud prison reports spike in COVID-19 cases

Prison wall
Prison wall at St. Cloud Correctional Facility. The Minnesota correctional facility in St. Cloud is seeing a big jump in COVID-19 cases, and the state Department of Corrections says it's temporarily moving intake operations to Faribault, Minn.
Tim Post | MPR News 2006

Updated: 2:37 p.m.

The state prison in St. Cloud, Minn., is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with the Minnesota Department of Corrections reporting 255 positive cases among people incarcerated there and one person hospitalized.

The St. Cloud prison typically serves as the intake facility, where everyone entering the state corrections system is first admitted. However, the department has temporarily moved intake processing to Faribault, Minn., due to the outbreak.

“As we have seen throughout the pandemic, spikes in cases in Minnesota’s prison system seem to coincide with spikes in cases in the general community,” said department spokesperson Nicholas Kimball.

The St. Cloud correctional facility is the only state prison currently experiencing such a surge. The prisons at Red Wing, Minn., and Lino Lakes, Minn., each reported a handful of positive cases; the Stillwater facility also reported one case on Friday, while other prisons reported none.

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Roughly 60 percent of the staff and nearly three-fourths of people incarcerated at St. Cloud are fully vaccinated. Eighty-six percent of people incarcerated in the prison have received at least one dose.

Since September, state employees who work on site are required to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Corrections officials have expressed concern about the vaccination rates among prison staff, which lag behind the general population.

Kimball said the Corrections Department is taking additional steps to mitigate the outbreak at St. Cloud, including requiring prison employees to wear N95 masks, random testing of staff and temporarily suspending in-person visiting. 

Everyone who is newly admitted to the prison is quarantined for 14 days after they arrive, Kimball said.

Staff and people incarcerated in all Minnesota state prisons will be offered COVID-19 vaccination booster shots starting next week, he said.