The Federal Bureau of Prisons said Saturday that the inmate, Patrick Jones, 49, was pronounced dead at a hospital after being put on a ventilator.
The death raises concerns about the possibility of deadly outbreaks spreading through the nation’s prisons and jails.
Jones complained of a “persistent” cough on March 19 and was evaluated by medical staff at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale before being taken to the hospital for further treatment and evaluation.
While at the hospital, Jones tested positive for COVID-19.
“On Saturday …, Mr. Jones, who had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease, was pronounced dead by hospital staff,” federal officials said in a news release.
Jones had been in custody at the facility since April 26, 2017.
He was previously sentenced in the Western District of Texas to a 324-month sentence for possession with intent to distribute 425.1 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a junior college, according to prison officials.
The Bureau of Prisons said Saturday that five inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Louisiana prison complex, a low-security facility that houses 990 men.
Advocates and correction officers have been calling for reforms to head off a potential outbreak in the federal prison system. So far, 14 inmates and 13 staff members have tested positive.
The United States has 2.3 million inmates in about 5,000 jails and prisons across the country — believed to be the largest prison population in the world. According to the Bureau of Justice, nearly 200,000 people 55 and older are behind bars.
As part of a “comprehensive approach” to the pandemic, the bureau said it has instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all inmates entering federal prisons.
In addition to working with the U.S. Marshals Service to reduce the risk of transmission, the agency has also instituted “significant measures” to prevent the spread of the virus.
“These measures include temporary restrictions on visitation, restricting inmate movement to only required and mission-essential transfers, increased health screening of staff and inmates, and increased sanitary measures,” the agency said. “In addition, all Bureau facilities have been directed to designate available space for isolation and quarantine for inmates who have been exposed to or have symptoms of the virus.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.,, warned Saturday that his state was nearing hospital capacity and would soon need additional help in treating COVID-19 patients.
Fox News’ Hollie McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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