The Oregon Department of Corrections will quarantine thousands of prisoners who were evacuated to Deer Ridge Correctional Facility near Madras and Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem as wildfires ravaged the state.
Since last week, lawyers, prisoners and their families described horrid conditions at both prisons after the state evacuated more than 2,700 inmates there from four other prisons.
Prisoners at OSP reported sleeping on mattresses laid on the floor within inches of each other, sans masks, and others at Deer Ridge reported nosebleeds and rampant coughing because of the smoke inside.
ODOC spokeswoman Vanessa Vanderzee says groups of prisoners from different facilities "commingled out of necessity" following the evacuations, and that ODOC will quarantine them for 14 days.
It is unclear when all the inmates who were evacuated will return to their original facilities, but ODOC announced Wednesday that all inmates from Oregon State Correctional Institution were moved from OSP to their home facility on Sept. 15.
Still, experts fear an impending mass spreading event.
"It could exacerbate an outbreak," says Dr. Marc Stern, a physician who specializes in correctional health care. "Most prisons were not designed for infectious disease isolation and quarantining."