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Five inmates working at Hickman’s Family Farms have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry on Monday.

The positive tests came after the department announced in March that 140 inmates would live at Hickman’s Family Farms to help keep a stable supply of eggs in metro Phoenix grocery stores

“Initially one inmate was symptomatic. She was taken back to Perryville prison, where she tested positive and has since been isolated. All inmates at Hickman’s were then tested, resulting in an additional 4 testing positive,” department spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said in a statement. 

“The inmates who tested positive are now also isolated at Perryville and are being medically monitored. All remaining inmates at Hickman’s have been retested today. Each inmate at Hickman’s has been given two masks and will continue to undergo regular medical monitoring,” he said.

The department has partnered with Hickman’s Family Farms in Buckeye for more than 25 years to teach women life skills through a reentry program. 

Arizona prisons cut back on off-site crews in March, but officials said the inmates would live at Hickman’s full time to raise baby chicks and help with vaccinations instead of returning to the prison each night.

The women are staying in a new, 6,000-square-foot building with air conditioning and bunk beds, Glenn Hickman, president and CEO of the company, told The Arizona Republic in March. 

Prison officials said the women’s health and temperatures would be monitored regularly and that they would return to Perryville prison after the pandemic.

Hickman did not immediately respond to The Republic’s request for comment. 

Of the roughly 40,000 inmates in Arizona, 3,432 have been tested for COVID-19, 421 inmates have been confirmed to have the disease, and nine are either confirmed or likely to have died from the disease, according to department data on Tuesday.

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