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Alabama prison system reports COVID-19 death, cases

The first Alabama prisoner has died after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

Posted: Apr 18, 2020 7:56 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The first Alabama prisoner has died after testing positive for the new coronavirus, the state Department of Corrections reported Friday as it confirmed two other COVID-19 cases among inmates.

Dave Thomas, 66, who the prison system described as already terminally ill, died Thursday at a hospital within 24 hours of testing positive for COVID-19, the department said. Thomas, who had been housed at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, had been hospitalized since April 4 to receive critical care related to his preexisting conditions.

Another inmate at St. Clair and an inmate at Bullock County Correctional Facility have also tested positive for COVID-19. The state said it has quarantined a group of inmates out of one dormitory at St. Clair and quarantined an entire dormitory at Bullock

The announcement came after inmate advocates and health experts expressed concerns that the state’s overcrowded prisons would become a breeding ground for a deadly outbreak and urged the state to make additional changes.

The state prison chief said the system is implementing containment strategies.

“In addition to the numerous, system-wide preventative and precautionary measures instituted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities, the ADOC has been aggressively preparing for this day, which was an inevitability based on what we are seeing across the country and world,” Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said in a statement.

The department said it is distributing face masks to inmates. Masks are being made at sewing factories at two state prisons. The prison system said all inmates should have two face masks within a week and they plan to eventually provide four.

The system said inmates have access to liquid antibacterial soap.

Social distancing, leaving at least 6 feet of space between individuals, is often a top recommendation for avoiding the coronavirus. However, that is difficult to impossible in prisons where inmates often live in tightly packed dormitories with rows of beds or bunk beds.

In January, Alabama prisons were at 170% capacity.

More than 40 public health professionals, including experts at Harvard’s School of Public Health, sent an open letter to Gov. Kay Ivey and other elected officials in Alabama urging virus containment changes and steps to reduce population density in state prisons and jails.

“Even with increased access to hand sanitizer and soap for hand washing, physical distancing is impossible in Alabama’s densely populated jails and prisons,” the letter read.

Dr. Max Michael, the former dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health and one the letter’s signers, said prisons and jails are a potential powder keg for an outbreak to rapidly spread because of proximity of inmates, preexisting conditions and other factors.

“That is just a setup for an incredibly vulnerable group of people that once the exposure starts you have to be prepared to truly stop and mitigate the spread,” Michael said. He added that he understood state officials face enormous challenges with large prison population combined with a staffing shortage.

The group recommended several changes, including to monitor that inmates have access to soap and sanitizer and to release certain non-violent inmates who are within six months of the end of their sentence, as is being done in Kentucky.

The group also wants officials to resume parole hearings and instruct the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to increase the pace of hearings to begin clearing its backlog.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313942

Reported Deaths: 7240
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21580258
Hinds20330415
Harrison17879309
Rankin13594278
Jackson13429246
Madison10088217
Lee9970174
Jones8370163
Forrest7670152
Lauderdale7188241
Lowndes6387146
Lamar622486
Lafayette6184118
Washington5332133
Bolivar4801132
Oktibbeha462198
Panola4582106
Pearl River4506146
Marshall4435103
Warren4386121
Pontotoc420172
Monroe4107133
Union410076
Neshoba4030176
Lincoln3962110
Hancock378486
Leflore3493125
Sunflower335990
Tate333384
Pike3316105
Scott315773
Alcorn312768
Yazoo311469
Itawamba299777
Copiah296865
Coahoma295179
Simpson294988
Tippah288168
Prentiss279760
Adams278782
Marion269080
Leake267473
Wayne262641
Grenada261386
Covington258281
George247848
Newton246261
Winston227081
Tishomingo226667
Jasper221048
Attala214273
Chickasaw207757
Holmes188873
Clay185254
Stone182433
Tallahatchie178541
Clarke177980
Calhoun170532
Yalobusha164238
Smith162334
Walthall133945
Greene130533
Lawrence128524
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123042
Carroll121828
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107033
Tunica105226
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96533
Kemper95728
Franklin83623
Quitman80716
Choctaw76318
Wilkinson67230
Jefferson65528
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 531404

Reported Deaths: 10985
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765501522
Mobile41036805
Madison34789503
Tuscaloosa25788453
Montgomery24340589
Shelby23449249
Baldwin21154308
Lee15882171
Calhoun14511314
Morgan14306279
Etowah13843353
Marshall12232223
Houston10570281
Elmore10068205
Limestone9974151
Cullman9676194
St. Clair9661243
Lauderdale9427241
DeKalb8831186
Talladega8227176
Walker7241277
Autauga6926108
Jackson6814112
Blount6678137
Colbert6306134
Coffee5519119
Dale4838111
Russell441538
Chilton4296112
Franklin426082
Covington4129118
Tallapoosa4023152
Escambia393677
Chambers3573123
Dallas3551152
Clarke351161
Marion3122101
Pike310977
Lawrence300398
Winston274473
Bibb260964
Geneva250477
Marengo249564
Pickens234461
Barbour231057
Hale223077
Butler216069
Fayette212562
Henry188844
Cherokee185245
Randolph180542
Monroe177540
Washington167339
Macon159650
Clay156756
Crenshaw152557
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107628
Sumter104732
Greene92534
Choctaw60724
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