BAYPORT, Minn. -- Officials at the state prison in Stillwater were easing lockdown rules Monday, Oct. 12, after 90 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week.

Prison officials announced over the weekend that mass coronavirus testing had identified the large number of COVID-19 cases in two areas, Cell Hall D and Atlantis. The prison has had 115 total coronavirus cases out of an inmate population of 1,273.

The facility was locked down to prevent further spread and inmates in the infected areas who tested positive were confined to their cells. One 70-year-old with COVID-19 was being treated outside the prison at an area hospital.

“We have long since recognized the challenge of keeping COVID-19 entirely out of this facility, and we planned for the likelihood that we would have cases here,” Warden Guy Bosch said in a social media message. “Our “Stay with Unit” plan has helped contain the spread of this outbreak within two living units, and staff and incarcerated people are committed to working together to continue to fight COVID in this facility.

“They are doing everything possible to protect our facility’s safety and health,” Bosch added.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

At noon Monday, inmates were allowed to start leaving their cells in small groups to shower and make calls although prison officials said that the smaller groups and cleaning procedures would slow down the process.

The state Department of Corrections has noted that early in the pandemic Commissioner Paul Schnell ordered state prisons to keep inmates within their living unit to minimize the potential for coronavirus spread.

Minnesota prisons have identified 754 cases of COVID-19 and an estimated 195 inmates have active infections. Two inmates have died of COVID-19.