Families concerns grow over COVID-19 outbreak at Utah State Prison

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DRAPER, Utah (ABC4 News) – The past few weeks have been a lot for Carrie Knowlton to bear. It was back on October 6th when her husband called her from the Utah State Prison with something she didn’t want to hear.

“He called me real fast and was like ‘Babe I don’t want you to stress, but I need you to know they just told me I’m positive for COVID,” she said.

Knowlton’s husband is one of 264 inmates with COVID-19 in the prison’s A & B blocks. That’s out of the 327 inmates housed there.

“They went to lockdown over there and tested positive for COVID, they didn’t see anyone for days,” Knowlton explains. “He said it was about three days before they actually saw a medical person come by.”

The source of the infections is believed to be an outside health care provider who treated several inmates.

Knowlton says her husband tested positive on October 3rd and should be out of isolation on Saturday.

According to the Department of Corrections website, to date, the prison has 288 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

On Thursday, two days after a protest outside of their headquarters officials publicly addressed families concerns.

From her phone, Knowlton played an audio clip from The Department of Corrections press conference.

In it, Jeremy Sharp, the Director of Prison Operations is heard saying about the department’s COVID response “it hasn’t been easy, especially under the scrutiny of those on the outside operating off misinformation.”

To this Knowlton says, “the comments he said were offensive saying we’ve been manipulated, misinformed.”

For the past seven months, the department says it’s enacted safety protocols including canceling visitation and volunteer services as well as monitoring staff and inmates.

“I could go on and on identifying the proactive steps we’ve taken in the face of COVID-19, but the point is the Utah Department of Corrections did not sit back and wait for problems to develop and then work on solutions,” said Mike Haddon, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Corrections.

Before September 23rd, officials say there were no confirmed COVID cases within the general population and past cases were from new prison intakes.

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