Inmate Dies, 30 Prisoners, Staff Test Positive at LA Prison

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The Oakdale federal prison in Louisiana has exploded with coronavirus cases, including the death of one inmate on Saturday, the admission of a guard into a hospital intensive care unit, and positive test results for another 30 inmates and staff, the Washington Post reports. Patrick Jones, 49, was the first federal inmate diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, and the first to die. At least 60 inmates at the Oakdale prison are in quarantine and an unknown number of staff are self-quarantining at home, said Corey Trammel, a union representative at the 1,700-inmate facility 110 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. “It’s been simultaneous, just people getting sick back to back to back to back,” Trammel said. “We don’t know how to protect ourselves. Staff are working 36-hour shifts — there’s no way we can keep going on like this.”

Jones complained of a “persistent cough” on March 19, said the federal Bureau of Prisons, and was transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed and placed on a ventilator. The bureau said Jones had “long-term, preexisting medical conditions” that increased his risk of developing the disease. Jones was serving a 27-year term for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a junior college. Louisiana ranks 10th highest among states for reported coronavirus cases, with more than 3,300 people who have tested positive and another 137 who have died. Trammel said the prison bureau has been slow to respond to the crisis. The bureau last week banned family and friends from visiting inmates, a policy the union had sought for weeks. As of Sunday afternoon, the prison system had confirmed only 14 inmates and 13 testing positive.

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