Emily Allen Published

First Correctional Officer in W.Va. Dies Of COVID As More Than 1,200 DCR Employees Are Vaccinated

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The state’s first correctional employee died on Saturday from COVID-19, less than two weeks after state health officials first made the vaccine available to employees of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Cpl. Mark Rustemeyer spent the last two decades working at Saint Mary’s Correctional Center in Pleasants County, according to a press release from the DCR on Sunday. The 58-year-old was undergoing treatment for COVID-19.

“Please keep Cpl. Rustemeyer, his wife, their family members, loved ones, friends, and colleagues in your prayers as we all mourn this terrible loss of a member of our correctional family,” DCR Commissioner Betsy Jividen said.

Before Rustemeyer, five reported prisoners also died from COVID-19, according to data from the DCR on Sunday. The division’s first reported death was a 40-year-old man at South Central Regional Jail in Charleston in August.

The division reported more than 600 coronavirus cases among its incarcerated population on Sunday. More than 50 DCR employees also have the virus and have not yet recovered.

DCR spokesman Lawrence Messina said Monday that state health officials have made the vaccine available to all 3,300 of the division’s employees since Dec. 22, when the division first began offering doses of the Moderna vaccine to correctional officers and other staff.

More than 1,230 DCR employees have received the first of two vaccine doses so far.

It’s unclear when the state will vaccinate prisoners. Messina said the division will vaccinate its incarcerated population at some point with the rest of the general public during the second phase of the governor’s two-part vaccine allocation plan.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.