WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The novel coronavirus on Wednesday killed two more inmates in the U.S. federal prison system, also in the Oakdale, Louisiana, facility where the system’s first death occurred on Saturday, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said.
The bureau said Nicholas Rodriguez, 43, reported having trouble breathing and a fever on March 25 and was transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was placed on a ventilator on March 27.
This followed the Saturday death of Patrick Jones, 49, also at Oakdale, of the new coronavirus.
A third inmate also died later on Wednesday of COVID-19, but the bureau could not provide additional information until the person’s next of kin had been notified.
The bureau said both Jones and Rodriguez had underlying conditions that put them at greater risk for developing more severe symptoms from COVID-19. Rodriguez was serving a sentence of more than 15 years on drug-related charges.
Criminal justice advocates and public defenders have urged the U.S. Justice Department to release low-level, non-violent offenders into home confinement, to reduce the prison population and contain the spread of the virus in prison systems.
Oakdale, a low-security prison with a little fewer than 1,000 inmates, has become what union officials there describe as ground zero for the coronavirus in the federal prison system.
As of Wednesday, 11 inmates and four staffers at Oakdale had tested positive for the coronavirus, the Bureau of Prisons said on its website.
Ronald Morris, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1007, however, told Reuters he was aware of 17 staffers who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Richard Pullin