An inmate who was incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary died Sunday while infected with COVID-19, according to the state Department of Corrections.
The man was between 55 and 65 years old, according to the DOC, and is the 21st inmate in Oregon to die with COVID-19 during the pandemic.
Oregon houses around 13,000 people in its 14 prisons statewide, where some of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state have taken place. State corrections officials have struggled to create adequate social distancing in the communal living environments of prisons, and advocates for prisoners have called for more people to receive early release.
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The Department of Corrections also announced Monday it has started vaccinating a limited number of people. The agency says it has enough vaccine to inoculate around 400 people.
“I strongly encourage all DOC employees, the people we incarcerate, and the public to also get vaccinated as soon as it is available to them,” said the agency’s chief medical director, Dr. Warren Roberts, who was among the first to get the vaccine. “This virus has wreaked havoc in our communities, and I am sure, like me, many of you are ready to get back to normal life.”
The Department of Corrections’ limited vaccine doses will go to “medical providers and nurses, transport employees, (and) security staff working on COVID-19 units and/or performing hospital watches,” Roberts said, adding that a “small number” of people in custody who help clean COVID-19 units will also be eligible in the initial round of doses.
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Roberts said they will prioritize all vaccine distribution based on guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other government agencies.