Stephanie Casanova

The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Nearly half the inmates at a Tucson prison unit tested positive for coronavirus Tuesday, officials said.

The Arizona Department of Corrections said 517 inmates housed at the Arizona State Prison Complex Tucson Whetstone Unit, near South Wilmot and East Old Vail roads, tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday. The unit houses 1,066 inmates and the entire prison complex houses more than 4,700 inmates.

The state is conducting testing for coronavirus of the entire inmate population, the department said in a news release.


The testing was conducted over several days and the results came in over several days, the department said in an email.

“Those inmates who tested positive are currently being housed as a cohort together in separate areas and are receiving appropriate medical care,” the department said. “They will not be allowed back into the general population until they have been medically cleared.”

Inmates at Whetstone prison will receive meals and medical services in their housing units, the department said. The facility also had safety measures in place to prevent virus spread, the department said.

Prison staff has been equipped with personal protective equipment including N-95 masks, gowns, gloves and face shields, the department said. On July 2, inmates were given fabric face coverings and staff have been required to use masks since June 15.

The department website shows 1,524 inmates have been tested and 745 have tested positive for coronavirus so far. The data, which was last updated Tuesday, says 10 inmates are still awaiting test results and 60 have recovered from the virus.

Three coronavirus deaths have been confirmed in the Tucson prison and five inmates potentially died from COVID-19, according to the department website.

Contact reporter Stephanie Casanova at scasanova@tucson.com. On Twitter: @CasanovaReports

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©2020 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.)

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