While California has not executed a death row inmate since 2006, an out-of-control COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin State Prison contributed to the death of a fifth condemned inmate, reports CBS5 in San Francisco. More than 1,300 prisoners and 120 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at San Quentin, including the aging population on death row. On Saturday, Dewayne Michael Carey, 59, died at a hospital from what appear to be complications related to COVID-19. Carey was imprisoned in 1996 for murdering a woman.
The state corrections department identified two other death row inmates who died at hospitals of COVID-19 last week, Scott Thomas Erskine, 57, who had been in death row since 2004 and Manuel Machado Alvarez, 59, who had been there since 1989. University of California San Francisco infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong said he’s not surprised by the prison outbreak, saying, “It’s a lot of people together, they’re not all masked, the windows are closed, the facilities are not open and there’s a lot of shouting and screaming, which allows those droplets that the virus travels on to travel further.” San Quentin was built in 1852. “It’s the oldest prison in the state and it’s got old grill cells, they’re not closed doors,”said Assemblyman Marc Levine. “We are bringing a mobile hospital to the grounds of San Quentin that will have 160 beds by next Friday.” There are 722 people on death row. While California doesn’t currently have a way to carry out capital punishment, defendants continue to be sentenced to death.