Colorado Prison Inmate With Coronavirus Symptoms Dies in Hospital

The Sterling Correctional Facility on the outskirts of Sterling in early August 2018. It’s the largest prison in the Colorado Department of Corrections system.The Sterling Correctional Facility on the outskirts of Sterling in early August 2018. It’s the largest prison in the Colorado Department of Corrections system.Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Sterling Correctional Facility on the outskirts of Sterling in early August 2018. It’s the largest prison in the Colorado Department of Corrections system.

An 86-year-old man being held in Colorado's Sterling Correctional Facility has become the first state inmate to die after being suspected of having COVID-19.

A Friday evening release from the Department of Corrections said the man, who was not identified, died at Sterling Regional Medical Center after being taken there on April 27 with symptoms of the respiratory illness.

"The department will not be releasing his name at this time," said DOC spokesperson Annie Skinner in the release. "The inmate's name and official cause of death will come from the coroner's office."

With 241 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, Sterling Correctional has been one of the state's hotspots for coronavirus and is largely responsible for Logan County's rate of 1,290 cases per 100,000 residents.

In mid-April, when just eight inmates showed symptoms of COVID-19, the DOC started an extensive testing program in the facility that found at least half the inmates tested had the virus. Most showed no symptoms.

As a result of the testing, and outbreaks in other county jails, the DOC announced they would begin releasing inmates with special medical needs, those who committed victimless crimes and those who were nearing parole.

The DOC did not release the reason the 86-year-old was in prison, or why he was not part of the early release program. There are just a handful of inmates of his age in Colorado prisons.

The DOC says the Sterling prison is being regularly cleaned and disinfected, and inmates are now required to wear face coverings at all times. Inmates remain in their cells except for bathroom trips and showerings.

Inmates on the east side of the facility, where the man who died was being held, undergo regular temperature checks to try and spot infections early.

The majority of outbreaks in Colorado residential facilities have taken place in nursing homes and other facilities serving the elderly. The virus has been particularly deadly for the elderly worldwide, with 749 of Colorado's 820 officially reported deaths occurring among people 60 and older.

This story has been updated to make clear that the inmate was tested for COVID-19, but the result of that test has not been disclosed by the DOC.

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