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One of the barred gates used to seal off sections of the Idaho State Correctional Center, Thursday, July 18, 2019.

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Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that people wear masks in public as far back as early April to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus, the Idaho Department of Correction didn’t require its staff to wear them until Wednesday — the same day the first Idaho inmate tested positive for the virus, writes Idaho Press reporter Tommy Simmons.

Nor is the department the only correctional entity to drag its feet in making that a requirement. Deputies who work in the Canyon County Jail are required to wear masks “in dealing with any precautionary aspects of potential suspected cases with inmates, but (masks) are not required at all times,” according to county spokesman Joe Decker. There have, so far, been no positive cases of the virus in the Canyon County Jail.

Employees of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office who work in the county jail’s booking, health services and classification areas have the option of wearing a mask, office spokesman Patrick Orr said Monday. Inmates are typically separated from the general population for eight days when they first come in, Orr said, and after that they are sorted into a more permanent situation.

Orr confirmed the office’s screening process identified one jail deputy who was told not to come to work and instead get tested for COID-19. Orr confirmed the deputy on Friday tested positive. That deputy is currently not working, he said, but no jail inmates have tested positive for the illness.

As of Monday, there have been three positive cases among the inmate population in the Idaho Department of Correction. All three cases were on the same cell block in the Idaho State Correctional Center.

You can read Simmons' full story here at, or pick up today's print edition of the Idaho Press; it's on the front page.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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