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5 Arizona prison inmates at Hickman’s egg farm test positive for COVID-19

(Facebook Photo/Hickman's Family Farms)

PHOENIX — Five Arizona prison inmates who were living and working at Hickman’s Family egg farm have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the West Valley business.

They are the first reported cases among female inmates at Hickman’s Family Farms since the facility started housing them March 25 in a program to mitigate the spread of coronavirus within prisons.

After working a shift on Monday, an inmate reported not feeling well and requested to not return to the workforce Tuesday, Hickman’s Family Farms CEO Glenn Hickman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

She was then returned to Perryville prison, where she tested positive and has been isolated.

Following the positive test, all inmates at Hickman’s farm were tested, which resulted in four additional positives. Those four inmates have all been taken back to the prison in order to receive proper care.

Hickman added that there have been no additional outbreaks and that the entire inmate crew has been retested and is currently awaiting results.

However, Hickman’s Family Farms isn’t exactly sure as to how the inmates would have contracted the virus.

Hickman said that although civilian employees do work in the same department as the first infected inmate, all those civilian employees were tested and were negative.

“Currently, every single employee prior to entering facilities is tested,” Hickman said.

“So we’ve had nobody demonstrating symptoms in our facilities — civilian or inmate.”

As of Wednesday morning, 17 inmates at Perryville and 421 among the state’s prison inmate population have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the corrections department website.

When the housing program was launched, the farm and the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said the women would return to prison after the public health emergency was over.

“We assure you that ADCRR and Hickman’s do not make this decision lightly, and the decision to temporarily house inmates at Hickman’s is necessary to ensure a stable food supply while protecting public health,” Hickman and the agency said in a joint statement at the time.

The women had already been working at the Buckeye business in a special program for minimum custody inmates from Perryville.

“We’ve been doing this program for 25 years and it’s become an integral part of our operation,” Hickman told The Mike Broomhead Show in March.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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