Nearly half of the prisoners at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center, a men’s prison in Vinita, have tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Monday, there were 202 confirmed cases at the prison.
The prison housed about 410 inmates as of Monday.
The outbreak created a new spike in cases in Craig County, where the minimum-security facility is located. The county had 379 cases confirmed as of Monday — mostly inside the prison — compared to 185 on Friday. More than 30 prison employees have also tested positive for the virus.
Brittany Hogan, whose husband is housed at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center, said she was frustrated by the lack of information about the outbreak the Department of Corrections had released to family members.
On Monday, she began calling the prison at 8 a.m. to try and find out why her husband hadn’t called her in four days. She hadn’t heard from her husband since last Thursday, when he called to let her know about the outbreak at the prison and that he didn’t know when he would be able to contact her again.
It was late Monday afternoon before prison staff were able to tell her that her husband was being held in quarantine in a part of the prison that didn’t have access to a phone.
Her husband Quinlan Hogan was sentenced to five years in prison in 2019 for eluding police.
“These people who are in there for minor situations — it’s not for singing too loud in choir — but they don’t deserve a death sentence,” she said.
Hogan’s husband had already been sick with COVID-19 in August, when he was being held at another prison, Jim E. Hamilton Correctional Center in Le Flore County, she said.
She was also unable to contact her husband when he was sick and held isolation, she said.
“They cut off communication with us completely,” she said.
Hogan said her husband also received no medical care when he was sick with COVID-19, not even Tylenol.
Wolf said all inmates are “receiving excellent medical care.” When someone has a medical condition that cannot be managed onsite, they are transported to a hospital, he said.
Inmates who are quarantined to a unit because of COVID-19 don’t have unrestricted access to phones but are allowed to make calls from 6 p.m. to midnight, Department of Corrections Spokesman Justin Wolf said. Instead of using the shared lobby where inmates usually make calls, those who are quarantined must use a separate room that needs to be cleaned, he said.
In Craig County, where the facility is located, 379 cases had been confirmed as of Monday, compared to 185 on Friday. More than 30 employees have tested positive for the virus.
Though employees are offered tests at some facilities in certain circumstances, staff are not required to get tested, an agency spokesman told The Frontier earlier this month. However, they are screened with a temperature check and health symptom questionnaire before each shift, he said.
Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center joins six other facilities that have reported more than 100 infections. Nearly 2,000 infections have been reported in facilities across the state.
At Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison in Taft, the vast majority of women have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility has the highest infection rate of any prison in the state with more than 780 reported cases.
At least four inmates have died after becoming infected with COVID-19, according to the Department of Corrections.
An elderly man at Lexington Assessment and Reception Center died at a hospital Saturday after testing positive for the virus in July, the department said in a news release on Monday.
Another elderly man at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington died at a hospital on Sept. 3. Though his death was the first that was possibly related to COVID-19, it was not initially included in fatality reports because the man had “numerous comorbidities,” the report said.
A middle-aged woman at Eddie Warrior who was being treated for COVID-19 symptoms died at a hospital on Sep. 5. The Department of Corrections did not release the woman’s identity but said her earliest possible release date was May 2021.
Last week, a man at Joseph Harp Correctional Center died at an Oklahoma City area hospital after testing positive for the virus. The man, who was not identified, had signed a do-not- resuscitate order and requested the hospital stop all treatment, according to the department of corrections.
The state medical examiner will determine the inmates’ causes of death.
This story was updated on Sep. 14 to include information about two additional in-custody deaths.