LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Inmate visits that were suspended in early January will be allowed again at Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) prisons.

NDOC also announced most other COVID-19 protocols related to visitation will be suspended. Visitors will no longer be required to wear masks. NDOC said social distancing, barriers between inmates and visitors, and previously required sanitation measures would be suspended as visits resume.

Visitors will still be medically screened when entering the facility.

The change comes as updates show a large number of “probable” COVID-19 cases have been added to a state dashboard that monitors prisons and other state-regulated facilities.

In the first week of January, the total of confirmed or probable cases was at 6,206. That count now stands at 9,757 — a difference of 3,551 cases. That’s a 57% increase in three months.

Since 8 News Now last checked the dashboard on March 9, nearly 2,000 additional cases have been added — the majority of new cases are classified as “probable.”

One inmate death has been added since March 9. A total of 55 inmates and employees have died since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a Nevada Department of Health and Human Services dashboard. (Set “facility type” to “Correctional” to see information on prisons.)

A breakdown of the cases that have been added:

  • 104 inmate confirmed cases, for a total of 5,488 confirmed cases
  • 1,494 inmate probable cases, for a total of 2,346 probable cases
  • 26 staff confirmed cases, for a total of 1,146 confirmed cases
  • 359 staff probable cases, for a total of 777 staff probable cases
Overall numbers for Nevada’s correctional facilities. (Nevada Department of Health and Human Services dashboard)

Overall, 1,983 confirmed or probable cases among staff and inmates have been added to the dashboard since March 9. There is often a lag between cases being detected and when they are reported. Prisons probably saw spikes similar to the general public when the omicron variant hit, but numbers were reported much later.

The prisons with the most cases since the pandemic started are:

  1. Northern Nevada Correctional Center — 2,005 total cases, 24 deaths
  2. High Desert State Prison — 1,932 total cases, 7 deaths
  3. Lovelock Correctional Center — 1,436 total cases, 15 deaths

“The health and safety of our staff and offenders is of paramount importance to the Nevada Department of Corrections,” said Deputy Director of Operations William Gittere.

“As we have seen the number of COVID-19 cases reduce dramatically, we no longer deem necessary strict precautions. We know offenders and their friends and families have waited a very long time to hug one another,” Gittere said.

NDOC said it will maintain all infection-control equipment, and procedures are subject to change depending on infection rates.