Coronavirus returns to FMC

Less than two weeks after cases of COVID-19 among inmates cleared, five staff members have tested positive, according to information from the federal Bureau of Prisons.

The Federal Medical Center campus on August 31, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach /

Less than two weeks after the Rochester Federal Medical Center reported zero cases of coronavirus after an outbreak among inmates, five staff members have tested positive for the virus.

The five cases were first published on the Federal Bureau of Prisons' COVID-19 page on Monday, Sept. 21. The cases held firm Tuesday.

All five staff members had been working at the facility prior to testing positive for the virus.

"Per CDC guidance, a contract tracing investigation is conducted to identify any potential exposures and may include testing as clinically indicated," a Bureau of Prisons spokesman wrote in an email to the Post Bulletin. "For those staff who are presenting with symptoms or have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 diagnosed individual, given the critical role our staff play with regard to public safety, we have developed a letter for staff who are in close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual to provide to the local health department, to ensure such persons receive priority COVID-19 testing. "

"Symptomatic or positive staff self-quarantine at their homes," the email concludes.


Two staff members had previously tested positive -- one in July and one in May . In both instances, the staff member had left the state and tested positive upon their return to Minnesota. Neither staff member had been in the facility in the weeks before their positive test result, according to information from the bureau. Both have since recovered.

In mid-August, the facility recorded its first cases of the virus among men being held there. It is believed that those cases were among new arrivals to the facilities, according to information from inmates and staff.

A total of 14 men tested positive for the virus. On Sept. 10 , all 14 were listed as recovered. Two days later, the number of recovered men dropped to 13 but active cases were listed. It is unclear why the number dropped.

Across the nation, there are 1,948 federal inmates and 672 Bureau of Prison staff members who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19. There are 126,798 people who are federal inmates in BOP-managed institutions and 14,062 people in community based-facilities.

There have been 122 federal inmate deaths and two staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease.

Five other BOP facilities in the state have active coronavirus cases.

At the Federal Correctional Institution Waseca, a women's prison, 88 women have tested positive as well as two staff members. Since the pandemic began, 93 women and six staff members at the facility have recovered from the virus.

At Federal Correctional Institution Sandstone, 96 inmates have tested positive. One inmate at a Bureau of Prisons-contracted residential re-entry center in Roseville and five at a residential re-entry center in Minneapolis have tested positive. At the Duluth Federal Prison Camp, three inmates tested positive.

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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