Emily Allen Published

Additional Deaths At Mount Olive Likely Both Linked To COVID

Mount Olive Correctional Center

West Virginia corrections officials say they’re now linking a prisoner death in July to COVID-19, referring to newer medical records that they received Tuesday.

This marks the second known COVID-related death of a prisoner within the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, after the agency reported its first inmate death in Charleston on Aug. 28. The DCR also said Wednesday that COVID-19 was possibly the cause of a third prisoner’s death from Sunday, Sept. 13.

When the DCR first reported the death of a 73-year-old man at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in July, they said medical providers found COVID-19 was not a contributing factor in the prisoner’s death.

The division released this information roughly a week and a half after the prisoner’s reported July 17 death. The agency said he had been receiving hospice care from the prison infirmary for stage 4 metastatic cancer, and a coronavirus test administered shortly before the prisoner’s death came back positive after he died. 

A new report finalized nearly two months later from the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disproves that initial assessment and lists COVID-19 as a complicating factor, according to a press release from the DCR on Wednesday.

The DCR declined to share a copy of the medical examiner’s report with West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

A second prisoner from Mount Olive reportedly died on Sunday, Sept. 13, at an outside hospital. The 54-year-old man also had an underlying medical condition and was hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus in late August, according to the DCR.

Prison officials are still waiting on results from the Chief Medical Examiner, but the DCR said in its Wednesday statement that a preliminary assessment from the hospital linked the prisoner’s death to COVID-19. 

The DCR reported there were still 28 active cases of the coronavirus among Mount Olive prisoners on Wednesday. More than 160 prisoners there have recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus during a late August facility-wide testing effort. 

On Aug. 28, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed a prisoner being held on federal charges at the DCR-run South Central Regional Jail had died from the coronavirus

The 40-year-old prisoner was indicted on child pornography-related charges in January and had a trial scheduled for September, according to court records. He was the state’s first COVID-related inmate death. 

More than 60 others at South Central have recovered from the coronavirus, according to data from the DCR Wednesday.

Although numbers from the DCR show that no state prisons are over capacity, records showed on Wednesday that all 10 of the state’s regional jails were over capacity.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.