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5 North Lake Correctional Facility employees test positive with COVID-19, as hunger strike ends

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Taylor Wizner
/
Interlochen Public Radio

 

  

Updated 4/16/20 with additional North Lake worker who tested positive.

 

Five employees at a North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin tested positive for COVID-19.

Inmates who interacted with infected employees are in medical quarantine, says GEO Group, the prison operator.

North Lake Correctional Facility is a federal prison that holds up to 1,700 immigrants who’ve been convicted of felonies.

GEO says the infected workers live in Mason, Lake and Mecosta counties — rural areas where the number of known positive cases is low. It’s unclear if the employees were exposed to the virus at work or in their communities.

No Detentions Centers in Michigan’s JR Martin says prisoners told them they’re concerned about measures the facility is taking.

“We heard people specifically expressing anxiety about the fact that the guards were wearing masks but none of the incarcerated people were given masks,” Martin says.

Last week at the facility, 10 inmates went on a hunger strike protesting racial and religious discrimination, unsafe conditions and inadequate food. 

The strike ended Friday after the food improved, some prisoners say. One inmate says he was forced to end the strike when the prison cut off water to his cell, stopping him from being able to practice his religion. He is Muslim and needed water for ritual washing before prayer.

GEO Group and the federal Bureau of Prisons denied there was a hunger strike at the facility.