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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.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
Crenshaw1273
Lawrence1250
Cherokee1237
Geneva960
Lamar871
Clay852
Fayette821
Coosa651
Cleburne421
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