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72% of inmates at the women's prison in Wilsonville have agreed to be vaccinated so far.

PMG FILE PHOTO - 72% of adults in custody at the women's prison in Wilsonville have agreed to be vaccinated, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections.

The circumstances at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility — located in Wilsonville and the only women's prison in Oregon — appear much improved from where they were a few months ago.

While the prison has tallied 240 positive COVID-19 tests — along with 84 at the intake facility — during the pandemic, most of which were recorded in the fall and winter, current infection rates amount to four at the facilities.

Meanwhile, all Coffee Creek adults in custody have been offered a COVID-19 vaccination and second doses for the last large set of AICs will take place this week. According to the Oregon Department of Corrections, 72% of AICs at the prison have accepted vaccinations and the vaccines will continue to be made available to those who declined them. The ODOC has also facilitated vaccinations to staff but does not require vaccinations or collect information on employees' vaccination status. Prison employees are among the group of workers with whom employers cannot mandate vaccinations.

"For both AICs and staff, health care decisions are a personal choice. Health Services and Communications have worked hard to provide factual information on the vaccine to assist AICs and staff in making an informed decision that is best for them. DOC does not collect information on employees' vaccination status as this would be a violation of HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines," ODOC Communications Coordinator Vanessa A. Vanderzee and Coffee Creek Public Information Officer Mackenzie Kath wrote in joint responses via email.

Vanderzee and Kath added that the prison will not manage AICs who weren't vaccinated differently than those who were, that they will continue to promote vaccine confidence and that requiring masks, social distancing and enhanced cleaning will continue.

The lessening of COVID-19 cases has meant that AICs can now have increased access to facilities like the day room, and work obligations have resumed. Coffee Creek is still closed to visitation but the prison is working on a plan to "safely reopen as soon as possible," the spokespeople said. The Coffee Creek puppy training program has also restarted.

"Staff and AICs are all very relieved to be back to Tier 1 (facilities that do not have current, originating cases of COVID-19), this past year has been hard on everyone. AICs are getting back to their normal routine which of course puts everyone more at ease and provides some much-needed hope," Kath and Vanderzee wrote.

However, the intake facility is still designated as tier-three, which includes more stringent requirements.

Overall, Coffee Creek's outbreaks were significant in numbers compared to other workplaces across the state, but lower than at some other prisons including Two Rivers Correctional Institution, Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution and Oregon State Penitentiary. According to ODOC data, Coffee Creek had the fifth most COVID-19 cases of the 15 prison institutions in the state and the eighth most if you don't count the intake facility (which other prisons don't have). It also had far more negative tests (4,470 at the intake facility and 2,863 at the women's detention facility) than any other prison. There were also no deaths at Coffee Creek due to COVID-19.

"Each of DOC's institutions has unique qualities and infrastructure that impact what methods can be used to contain an outbreak, so it is not useful or even possible to make a simple comparison of one institution's response to another's," Kath and Vanderzee wrote. "The diligence of Coffee Creek staff in following protocols, unit schedules, and mask wearing all helped bring the outbreak under control. We know vaccinations are an important tool to managing the spread of COVID-19 and we are grateful for those staff and AICs who were able and willing to be vaccinated."

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