State lab detects additional variant cases in Buena Vista facility

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REMOTE, (March 12, 2021): The State Public Health Laboratory detected five additional cases of the B.1.351 variant at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex. This variant was first identified in South Africa.

All five of the cases are incarcerated/detained persons with specimen collection date of 3/1/21. Since the facility has an outbreak, additional testing has been required-- along with the regular monitoring. All of the cases are new and do not appear to have previous positive results. 

To mitigate disease spread, CDPHE hosted a vaccine clinic for staff and inmates at the facility on March 8 and 9, vaccinating 758 people. Over 85% of the inmate population at BVCC has now received at least the first dose of the vaccine. CDPHE has also conducted a vaccination clinic for 34 family members and close contacts of staff. The clinics are in line with a policy CDPHE communicated to local public health agencies on January 29 that stated, “Local Public health has additional flexibility to vary from the prioritization for sub-populations with the vaccine supply allocated to them for emerging risk of rapid spread of COVID-19 (e.g.variant transmission), as identified by local public health in consultation with CDPHE.” Colo. Dept. of Corrections is also in line with the state plan regarding vaccinations and has vaccinated 2,653 staff members and 2,125 inmates so far.

Colo. Dept. of Corrections-- with guidance and technical assistance from CDPHE-- has done the following:


  • Conducted large scale targeted testing programs for staff and inmates and utilizing the inmate test results to create cohort groups that help prevent any potential cross contamination or exposure between inmates in different living units.

  • Assigned staff to specific areas of the facility to prevent cross contamination to the greatest extent possible. 

  • Required CDOC staff members who work in prison facilities or parole offices and all inmates to wear masks in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s guidance. 

  • Contracted with additional clinical staff and had 24/7 emergency medical response teams at some facilities during critical phases of an outbreak. This allows for quick hospital transport when/if needed. 

  • Limited any unnecessary transport of inmates between facilities for many months, and has only recently begun interfacility transfers following testing and quarantining protocols.

  • Moved the intake facility from Denver to Canon City which allowed for the use of a facility with a better physical layout/design to quarantine inmates and prevent the spread of the virus. This decision also prevented the CDOC from bringing inmates from the county jails into the Denver facility where  higher health risk inmates are housed. 

  • Quarantined inmates at the intake facility. They are PCR tested at day 2 and day 9. Two negative tests, plus a fourteen day quarantine, allows the offender to move into Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center and to their destination facility. 

  • Suspended jail intake for a length of time in order to develop robust protocols/requirements for the county jails prior to allowing for very limited intake. 

  • Suspended in-person visiting and volunteers in order to prevent any unnecessary outside people from potentially bringing the virus into the facility. Facilities worked to find creative ways to safely engage inmates in programming and education, including conducting virtual and correspondence classes.  

  • Implemented staff screening protocols and taking the temperatures of staff members when they come into facilities.

  • Increased the already robust cleaning protocols and provided additional cleaning supplies to the inmate population.

  • Conducted virtual and in-person audits for all our COVID protocols. We audit cleaning, disinfecting, and cohorting practices, as well as treatment practices

Public health officials advise that Coloradans practice basic public health protocols-- like wearing a mask and getting the vaccine when it’s their turn-- to protect themselves against COVID-19 and the variant. 

Continue to stay up to date by visiting All detected variants in Colorado are listed on the data dashboard and the CDC has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 variants. 

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