The North Carolina corrections system has announced its first death of an incarcerated person from medical complications due to COVID-19.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) will not identify the man who died, who was in his 50s and allegedly had underlying medical conditions, according to a news release. They cited the “family’s right to privacy and the confidentiality of prison offender records” as the reasons for not identifying him.
The person who died had been housed at Pender Correctional Institution in Burgaw. He began showing symptoms of a viral infection on April 8, according to officials, and was “promptly isolated from the population” and tested for the virus. The positive result came back two days later.
Officials reported offering “constant medical attention,” but said the man was hospitalized on April 13. His condition continued to worsen and he died Tuesday at the hospital.
“Any death is a tragedy, and we must continue our efforts to do all we can to try and flatten the curve of COVID-19 in Prisons,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “The health and safety of the staff and the men and women in our custody is of paramount importance.”
As of this afternoon, Pender shows only two infected incarcerated people and three pending tests. There are 301 total incarcerated people in North Carolina prisons who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 648 pending tests, according to a tally on DPS’ website.
The DPS has taken a number of measures to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, including suspending visitation, taking a two-week hiatus from accepting new incarcerated people from county jails and reviewing a very small percentage of people in its custody for early release. Advocates and public health officials have said it won’t be enough to combat the outbreak.
They’ve begged Gov. Roy Cooper to use his unfettered clemency powers to release more people from prisons, but he has refused thus far. There is a lawsuit pending in Wake County Superior Court seeking emergency action to help incarcerated people who are not safe from the spread of the virus.