The Oregon Department of Corrections on Thursday announced the first death of an inmate due to COVID-19.
The man, who ODOC says was between 50 and 60 years old, died yesterday at the hospital. He had been incarcerated at Oregon State Penitentiary, the maximum-security prison in Salem. OSP is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the state's prison system: 115 inmates have tested positive, as well as 26 employees, according to The Oregonian.
ODOC has not yet identified the man or specified when he tested positive for COVID-19. Yesterday, WW reported that the agency's infectious disease doctor requested the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat inmates afflicted with COVID-19.
So far, 38 corrections employees and 148 adults in custody have tested positive for the coronavirus, ODOC said in a statement Thursday.
Juan Chavez, director of the Civil Rights Project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center, issued a statement following the announcement of the death.
"We have heard from dozens of incarcerated Oregonians, many of whom are medically vulnerable, and their families about their fears of the harm contracting the disease could do to them," Chavez said. "There is an urgent and clear need for a comprehensive program of prevention, testing and care to be implemented throughout Oregon's prisons. Gov. [Kate] Brown must no longer ignore the reality that prisons are not built to withstand a global pandemic and act on the knowledge she has of the risk of harm that exists for all those who work and live in the prisons."
The Department of Corrections said it has implemented thorough disinfecting practices at all ODOC institutions, and that employees and inmates have been offered masks.
"DOC is identifying the especially vulnerable population within the institutions and intensifying the efforts to reduce potential exposure and transmission," the department wrote in a statement. "If an [adult in custody] becomes ill and exhibits flu-like symptoms, then U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Oregon Health Authority guidance for supportive care will be followed."