An inmate in Rhode Island has died after contracting the novel coronavirus, according to a local report.
The 66-year-old inmate who served time at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) was recently diagnosed with the virus. The inmate had underlying health issues that "likely contributed to this death," said Rhode Island Department of Corrections Spokesperson J.R. Ventura to local news station WPRI.
The inmate, who was not identified, had been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in maximum security since 1988, Ventura said. He was imprisoned after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 73-year-old double-amputee, per the outlet.
"It is clear that we must continue our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," said Rhode Island Department of Corrections Director Patricia Coyne-Fague, in a statement. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our medical and security staff, we have not experienced the heartbreaking losses that other DOCs across the country have. However, this is a strong reminder as to why we must continue to wear our masks, get vaccinated, and follow our health safety protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible."
The news comes after the American Medical Association (AMA) in November called for stronger disease mitigation measures at the nation’s correctional and immigrant detention facilities.
Ahead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities be vaccinated against COVID-19 first, the AMA at the time also called for correctional workers, incarcerated people and detained immigrants to be included in the initial phases of coronavirus vaccine distribution.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen the virus spread quickly in high-density populations, particularly in correctional facilities," Ilse R. Levin, D.O., M.P.H., T.M., and AMA board member said in a news release at the time. "Because of the high risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among people who are incarcerated and correctional and detention center workers, the AMA is advocating for increased infection control measures, additional PPE, and priority access to vaccines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Being incarcerated or detained should not be synonymous with being left totally vulnerable to COVID-19. These steps are vital to protect people and stop the spread of the virus."
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), there are currently 5,994 federal inmates and 1,676 BOP staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 nationwide. An estimated 169 federal inmates have died after contracting the virus, as well as two staff members.