Federal inmate death toll rises to 22; FL state prisons report nearly 4,000 inmates in ‘medical quarantine’

Inmates in Florida's public and private prisons will soon be getting COVID vaccinations for the first time. Credit: Florida Department of Corrections

Twenty-two federal inmates have died of COVID-19 in just over two weeks and 495 had tested positive for the disease through Sunday evening, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

The deaths occurred since March 28 at six federal prisons in Oakdale, LA, Lisbon, Ohio, Butner, NC, San Pedro, CA, and Danbury, CT.

Other coronavirus hotspots in the federal system, which operates 122 facilities and incarcerates nearly 144,000 inmates, include prisons in Yazoo City MS, Forrest City, AR, Milan, MI, Chicago, and three in New York — in New York City, Brooklyn and Otisville.

Also in the federal system, 309 employees were confirmed as infected, and none had died.

Florida is home to nine federal prisons that imprison 10,000 men and women.

Three of those prisons have confirmed COVID-19 infections, mostly among employees: five at Miami Federal Detention Center, one at Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution, and three at Coleman Federal Correctional Institution in Sumter County.

In addition, Coleman Federal reports that one inmate has tested positive for the disease, caused by the new coronavirus.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons reports it has released 1,280 elderly or sickly inmates to home confinement since March 26 because of their elevated risk of infection and to slow the spread of the disease behind bars.

State prisons in Florida

Florida’s state prison system is contending with coronavirus in 56 of its 145 correctional facilities, which incarcerate roughly 96,000 inmates, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Four state inmates at Blackwater River Correctional Facility died of COVID-19 last week in Santa Rosa County. Blackwater, privately run by The GEO Group, had the first outbreak of coronavirus in the state prison system. Through Sunday, 40 inmates at Blackwater had tested positive for the virus, along with 10 prison employees.

Two more state prisons have since become hotspots:

Tomoka Correctional Institution in Volusia County announced an outbreak last week that grew to 47 infected inmates by Sunday night, plus five sick employees. Another 48 inmates were in medical isolation awaiting test results.

Sumter Correctional Institution reported 24 state inmates confirmed as infected, and 18 more awaiting test results. Four employees there had tested positive.

State prison authorities reported through Sunday night that 113 inmates statewide were confirmed sick with COVID-19, and 89 more were in medical isolation awaiting test results.

Nearly 4,000 are in “medical quarantine,” which the state Department of Corrections describe as being “separated because they have had close contact with a person who has tested positive or exhibited symptoms” of the disease.

Quarantined inmates are to be monitored by health services staff.  If an inmate’s condition worsens, he or she is placed in “medical isolation” and is to be tested for COVID-19.

In addition, 80 state corrections employees statewide were confirmed as infected, including 10 at Blackwater and nine at South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Beach County, which, like Blackwater, is privately operated by The GEO Group.