Fourteen men held at the Rochester Federal Medical Center have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to data published by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons on Saturday.
Earlier in the week, a bureau spokesperson would not clarify if the men who have tested positive were part of the facility's general population or they were at the facility for medical treatment, nor would they say whether the men were in the same unit. Two inmates and a staff member who spoke with the Post Bulletin said the cases coincide with the arrival of new inmates brought in by U.S. Marshals in August.
Nationwide, there are 1,486 federal inmates and 661 prison staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. There have been 117 federal inmate deaths, four of which occurred on home confinement, and one staff member death attributed to COVID-19.
Three other federal facilities in the state have coronavirus infections among those being held.
At Federal Correctional Institution Sandstone, four inmates have tested positive. Seven inmates at a Bureau of Prisons-contracted residential re-entry center in Roseville have tested positive.
Federal Correctional Institution Waseca started the week with nine cases among the women held there, but by Thursday, that number climbed to 21. Two new cases among staff members were added to the list Saturday.
Two staff members at FMC Rochester tested positive for COVID-19 this summer, but have since recovered, according to the Bureau of Prisons. 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 a bureau spokesperson.
Bill Axford, a teacher at FMC and president of Local 3947, said it is believed that the two employees who tested positive were working at another facility within the Federal Bureau of Prisons when they contracted the virus. Working at another BOP facility is optional and no one is forced to go, he said.
"We sent a lot of different staff out to facilities that were ravaged with COVID and didn't have the staff to operate," Axford said, adding that it was shortly after those instances that the positive tests among staff occurred. "It is widely believed that happened but can't confirm it."
Across the nation, there are confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in 112 bureau facilities and 46 residential re-entry centers.