MDOC: 10 of 29 Michigan prison facilities on 'flu quarantine'

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

More than one in three prison facilities in Michigan is under "flu quarantine," keeping inmates from accepting visits, the Michigan Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

The quarantines are not related to the coronavirus, said corrections department spokeswoman Joelle Craddy. They affect 10 of the state's 29 prisons, including Women's Huron Valley, the only facility for women.

More:Michigan prison system, jails adjust to coronavirus

Flu quarantines are triggered, Craddy said, when two or more prisoners at a facility are found to have influenza. 

On Feb. 27, three facilities went on quarantine: Kinross, in the Upper Peninsula; Cooper Street in Jackson, and Central Michigan in St. Louis.

A week prior to that, there was a flu quarantine at four facilities, including Kinross.

More:Michigan prisons limit visitors because of flu cases

Since that time, seven others have joined the list: Thumb, which was added Thursday; Women's Huron Valley; Newberry; Cotton; Macomb; Alger; and Carson City. Based on capacity, and not current headcounts, the quarantine could affect roughly 17,000 of the roughly 38,000 prisoners in Michigan.

At Kinross, the level two facility is under the quarantine, but the level one facility is not, Craddy said.

"This is not at all coronavirus-related," Craddy said, but due to positive tests for influenza. No one in the Michigan prison system has had to be tested for the coronavirus.

Generally, prison medical staff requires a week without a new reported case to lift a quarantine, she said.

In addition to suspending visitation at quarantined facilities, the corrections system "implements deep cleaning procedures," Craddy said. 

And while inmates are offered the flu shot in the fall, it has been offered again to inmates at the affected facilities. 

While some county jails in Michigan have gone to video visitation in lieu of most in-person visits, making exceptions for clergy and the inmate's attorney, the Michigan Department of Corrections does not employ this at a large scale. There are some video opportunities, for instance, for inmates who are hearing impaired.

"But as of today, for the general population, no," Craddy said.

Visitors to the facilities still open could be subjected to temperature checks, as the corrections department tries to prevent the deadly coronavirus, which reached Michigan this week — prompting many universities to suspend in-person classes for a time — from reaching a population that has no choice but to live in close quarters.