California reports first inmate deaths related to the coronavirus

This transmission electron microscope image shows the coronavirus virus that causes COVID-19.
(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases / Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

California corrections officials announced the first prison inmate deaths from complications related to the novel coronavirus.

An inmate died Sunday at a hospital after contracting COVID-19 at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

No further details were released to protect the inmate’s medical privacy and next of kin was notified, the statement said.

In addition, an inmate from the U.S. Penitentiary at Lompoc died Saturday of coronavirus-related complications. He was the 22nd federal prisoner to die a COVID-19-related death and first at Lompoc, where an outbreak has infected 54 inmates. Another inmate who was released April 1 died five days later after testing positive for the virus.

Statewide, 115 inmates and 89 corrections employees have tested positive for the coronavirus as officials work to prevent outbreaks among California’s other vulnerable populations, including people living in nursing homes, on the streets or in homeless shelters.

Prisons are following isolation and quarantine guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are trying to increase physical distancing at housing units by bringing in tents, cots and temporary bathrooms. Some 3,500 inmates received early release to reduce overcrowding.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.