Avenal inmate is 19th California prisoner to die after contracting coronavirus

Avenal State Prison in Kings County is shown in November 2016.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

An inmate at Avenal State Prison died of suspected COVID-19 complications over the weekend, becoming the 19th California state prisoner to die after contracting the coronavirus.

The man died Saturday at a hospital, said Dana Simas, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. His identity was not released. The exact cause of his death has not yet been determined, though it appears to be related to COVID-19, Simas said.

The death was the first coronavirus-linked fatality recorded by Avenal State Prison, which has reported 928 cases of the virus among its population. A total of 131 inmates currently being held there have active cases of the virus, Simas said.


The California Institution for Women in Corona and Chuckawalla Valley State Prison each have reported one inmate death linked to COVID-19. The women’s prison has recorded 163 cases of the virus, and Chuckawalla has reported 1,012, making it the site of the largest coronavirus outbreak in the state prisons system. Roughly 44% of inmates there have tested positive for the virus.

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The bulk of the COVID-19 deaths in state prisons have been reported by the California Institution for Men in Chino, where 850 inmates have tested positive for the virus and 16 have died. The 16th man died Wednesday, Simas said.

A total of 3,611 inmates at California state prisons have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to the department of corrections. The outbreaks at Chuckawalla, Avenal, the men’s prison in Chino and the women’s prison in Corona account for nearly 82% of those cases.

Outbreaks also have been reported at the San Quentin State Prison, which has recorded 240 cases of the virus, and at the state prisons in Corcoran and Los Angeles County, which have reported 155 and 128 cases, respectively.