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517 inmates at southside state prison test positive for COVID-19

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The Arizona Department of Corrections announced late Tuesday evening that 517 inmates at a Tucson prison have tested positive for COVID-19.

More than half of their population tested positive for the coronavirus, despite following CDC guidelines for prisons.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is a member of the White House Taskforce, and Vice President Mike Pence are aware of the outbreak at the site.

Birx said that it has gotten out of control thanks to asymptomatic spread. 

"In this case, it has been that the prisons have alerted us in many ways about the level of asymptomatic spread," Birx said. "The Department of Corrections has done a great job following CDC guidelines and going in there and doing testing."

Birx estimates that up to 60%-70% of the spread has been asymptomatic based on the age of the prisoners and the quick spread of the virus.

"They've done a good job following inmates overtime to make sure that they've had a good outcome," Birx said. "This is another way that we can track the level of asymptomatic spread."

Birx has praised Arizona for its handling of the virus for the last couple weeks. She said that the nation is learning a lot from not only the state response but from the virus outbreak at the prison, as well. 

"This is been valuable epidemiologic information," she said. "Certainly, we don't want to see this kind of outbreak. That is why the key information is on the website and most importantly, the CDC has been in daily communication with prisons." 

The prison has moved quickly on this virus, testing workers regularly. Those who are positive have also been blocked off entirely from the rest of the population.

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Daniel McFarland

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