Alabama prison system reports COVID-19 death, cases

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

Posted: Apr 20, 2020 4:03 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: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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