A work release inmate at the Waterloo Residential Correctional Facility has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ken Kolthoff is director for the Iowa Department of Correctional Services' Waterloo-based First Judicial District. Kolthoff said his staff learned of the diagnoses on Sunday and confirmed the individual was employed at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Waterloo, where an outbreak of COVID-19 has occurred.

Kolthoff said when the man first reported feeling ill, he was moved to a wing in the facility separate from other residents. He'll remain in quarantine for 14 days and symptom free.

"Since the onset of this pandemic, the First Judicial District has taken all precautions to maintain the safety of our staff as well as the clients we work with," Kolthoff said in an email to Townsquare Media Waterloo. "We follow the guidelines established by the Iowa Department of Public Health and CDC (Center For Disease Control) as it pertains to corrections."

Kolthoff described steps that correctional officials have been in effort to protect staff and residents. He said all staff -- many of whom are teleworking -- have been issued personal protective equipment (PPE) and residents have been issued masks to wear. All people entering correctional properties in the district are having their temperature taken.

"We have created areas in our facility separate from the general population to separate individuals who are sick," Kolthoff said. "The buildings are cleaned and disinfected multiple times per day."

According to Kolthoff, other steps have been taken to combat spread of the coronavirus.

"We have actively reduced the population of the facilities we operate in Waterloo, Dubuque, and West Union by expediting home placements for clients transitioning back to the community and also slowed new admissions," he said. "This has resulted in an overall reduction of about 45% in resident population. All of these measures have created more space in the facilities and also significantly reduced the foot traffic in and out of the building.

"The department’s mission to maintain public safety is still paramount in our efforts," Kolthoff said. "Our staff have done an excellent job completing their work under very unusual circumstances. We maintain contact, while practicing appropriate distancing, with the individuals under our supervision. In addition to monitoring the activities of those under our supervision, we also provide guidance to help them navigate this situation."

The First Judicial District is a community-based correctional program in which people are placed under supervision in lieu of prison or jail. The program affords individuals an opportunity to be productive members of the community, by completing treatment, working, and making restitution. Similar to others in the community, many of the work release residents under correctional supervision have lost employment.

Kolthoff said: "For those fortunate enough to have employment, it is our hope and expectation that the employers are taking proper safeguards for the safety of the employees."

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