8 test positive for COVID-19 at Billings men's pre-release center

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 17:15:20-04

BILLINGS — Eight active COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at the men's Alpha House pre-release center in Billings, the center's top administrator told Q2 Tuesday.

“We originally received notification that we had a case on July 4th. We always seemed to have several people who have had symptoms and are out for testing with RiverStone, with the Billings Clinic or St. V’s. So, our second case was a person who was tested that way," said David Armstrong, CEO of Alternatives Inc., which operates Alpha House.

The first case was discovered July 4, and sentinel and symptomatic testing identified the remaining seven cases, Armstrong said.

Last Thursday, 300 staff members and residents of the pre-release center were given COVID-19 tests. Four positives were found in that round of tests.

"Everybody in the Alpha House agreed to the test. Out of that, we found that we had four positives, but the good news is now we know that’s what we had," Armstrong said, adding,"Basically, everybody has been tested as of Thursday, so we’re hopeful that we have eight total cases and no more."

No COVID-19 cases have been found in the women's pre-release center, which is in a different building, Armstrong said.

The infected men are housed in cohorts with their own bathrooms and have not been mixing with the other residents, Armstrong said.

"The people who have COVID-19 are isolated. Though they are sharing rooms, but they do have private bathrooms. They are not sharing bathroom facilities with the other residents," Armstrong said.

Residents who've tested negative have been quarantined to their rooms, which often hold three people. Usually, residents in the pre-release center hold jobs in the community to make for an easier transition out of the correctional system.

Armstrong said RiverStone Health guidance influenced the decision to keep residents in their rooms.

"(RiverStone's) determination, and I agree with it, was that the most conservative path was to close down the entire facility and place people on quarantine for 14 days. So, the people who do not have active COVID-19 were clear of it at least last Thursday and they're asymptomatic at this point. So, at the end of 14-day quarantine, some of those will return to their normal work schedules," Armstrong said.

Check back at Wednesday for more from Armstrong on how Alpha House is coping with the outbreak.