A middle-aged man is the first Oregon prisoner to die after testing positive for COVID-19.
According to a brief news release from the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), the unidentified man was incarcerated in Salem's Oregon State Penitentiary. He died Wednesday after being transferred to a hospital. He was between 50 and 60 years old, according to the agency.
This death comes just over a month after the agency reported its first positive COVID-19 test in a DOC inmate. As of today, DOC reports that 148 prison inmates and 38 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus across the state's 14 facilities.
Despite advocacy from inmates' families and civil rights lawyers, Governor Kate Brown has no plans to decrease the state's prison population to allow for its 14 prisons to follow social distancing protocols. Inmates in many facilities still sleep in large, open-air dormitories with beds less than four feet apart from one another. Those who show symptoms of COVID-19 are still being placed into solitary confinement.
Inmates who've tested positive for the virus have been relocated to medical isolation units in the Coffee Creek Correctional Institution and the Snake River Correctional Institution.
Juan Chavez, a lawyer with the Oregon Justice Resource Center, is representing several inmates in a federal lawsuit against Brown for the DOC's response to COVID-19.
“We are saddened to learn of the death of a man incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary yesterday," said Chavez in a statement. "There is an urgent and clear need for a comprehensive program of prevention, testing, and care to be implemented throughout Oregon’s prisons. Governor 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 deceased man is one of three inmates who were hospitalized yesterday after contracting COVID-19, according to OPB reporting. The health conditions of the two other patients is unknown.