Utah Inmate Surge

In this Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, Department of Corrections Officers are shown in the Uinta 5 receiving and orientation unit during a media tour at the Utah State Correctional Facility in Draper, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Corrections has reported a third inmate has died after contracting the coronavirus at the state prison.

The 50-year-old man was the youngest inmate in Utah to die after testing positive for COVID-19, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. He was originally hospitalized Oct. 12 and died Saturday.

Two other inmates at the Draper facility have died, department officials said. A 70-year-old man died last week and an 82-year-old man died earlier this month.

Both were housed in the Oquirrh facility at the state prison complex, where those most vulnerable inmates live, officials said.

The third inmate was housed at the lockup's Wasatch facility. He was one of the first in that facility to test positive.

“I would like to express condolences to those who have lost incarcerated loved ones, as well as so many others in Utah who have lost loved ones due to this pandemic,” Department Executive Director Mike Haddon said. “As a state, we must all continue to pull together to combat the spread of COVID-19, including wearing our face coverings, social distancing and limiting contact with those outside our households.”

There were 649 inmates in Draper who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, representing about 26% of the prison population. Another 34 inmates at the Gunnison prison facility have tested positive for the virus.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah sued prison officials in April, claiming the state prison system did not do enough to keep inmates safe during the pandemic. But the lawsuit was dismissed in May by the state Supreme Court.

The court did not respond to the allegations made by the ACLU, but said the group didn’t have legal standing for the lawsuit since it was not representing any inmates.

The ACLU has said in response to the current outbreak that prison officials still are not doing enough.

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