Family of inmate testing positive for COVID-19 at Purgatory Correctional Facility alleges staff denied masks, testing

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HURRICANE (ABC4 News) — A mother of an inmate testing positive for COVID-19 at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Southern Utah alleges the inmates originally exhibiting symptoms had been fighting for several days to get tested and receive masks.

Officials at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane confirmed Wednesday that 15 inmates are currently testing positive for the virus and are quarantined within the facility.

Chief Deputy Jake Schultz with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office tells ABC4 News four symptomatic inmates who were staying in intake housing units were placed in medical isolation cells and tested on Saturday. Three of the four individuals tested positive for COVID-19.

These inmates were in housing units with a total of 24 inmates, 12 of which also tested positive for the virus, according to Schultz.

Stephanie Root tells ABC4 News her son had recently been transferred from a jail in Salt Lake County, where staff had given him a mask. When he arrived at the Purgatory Correctional Facility, she said guards took off his mask and would not provide him another when he asked. She said the guards allegedly told him, “If we were worried about it, you’d have one.”

“It makes me wonder, do they allow that because who really cares about people in jail?” Root said in a phone interview.

She added, “People might think that but that’s still my son. Yes, he did a bad thing. Yes, he’s there, but somebody still needs to take care of him. Our tax dollars do that for a reason.”

She further alleges that the inmates originally exhibiting symptoms who were housed with her son had requested several times to get tested but were denied. One inmate allegedly went to medical three times complaining of symptoms before getting tested.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said PCF staff tested an additional 100 inmates who may have been exposed. Deputies tell ABC4 News that staff do not provide masks to all inmates booked into the jail but confirmed that every inmate in each of the four quarantined blocks has been given a mask.

Shultz added that employees have been sanitizing the facility for months and are wearing masks and gloves any time they’re outside of the control room.

Katie Karalis
Katie worked as a multimedia journalist in Reno, Nevada for KRNV News 4 and in Quincy, Illinois for WGEM-TV before making the move to Utah. Katie graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she anchored and reported for the Emmy-award-winning Northwestern News Network.

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