An outbreak of COVID-19 at a state prison that houses many medically impaired and elderly inmates has claimed two more lives, officials said Saturday.
Lisa Kinney, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, reported that the two men died Saturday and there are now 407 current cases of the virus — with 22 people hospitalized — at the Deerfield Correctional Center, which has an infirmary and an assisted living unit.
Kinney said the two men died at an area hospital where they were being treated. She said the entire 925-inmate prison was recently tested. The prison is in the town of Capron, which is in Southampton County east of Emporia.
The two deaths bring the total at the prison to six, the most at any prison since the pandemic began. The deaths would raise the statewide inmate COVID-19 death toll to 19. In all, 3,108 of the system’s 27,000 offenders have tested positive at some point. There are 473 current cases among Virginia inmates.
The new outbreak at Deerfield has families of inmates concerned. “My son tells me that they are 2 feet apart, jammed in there like sardines,” said Connie Conner of Roanoke. Her son, Shane Conner, 51, has tested positive, she said.
“My son needs to come home,” she said, adding her son told her that the staff is working with a skeleton crew.
“I feel sorry for the staff, I want you to know that I don’t blame anybody ... but somebody’s neglecting these people and they’re dying. He already has two friends he said died,” she said.
The Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy recently reported its first major outbreak — 41 cases, but no hospitalizations or deaths as of Thursday. Fluvanna is the state’s largest prison system for women, and some of its inmates have serious medical conditions.
Kinney said the Department of Corrections has been able to test on a scale that most congregate settings have been unable to do. She said the department has conducted more than 36,600 tests and that most offenders have no symptoms.
“The doctors, nurses, and medical staff at the DOC are working around the clock to test and provide care to offenders during this pandemic,” Kinney wrote.
She said the department is working with the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia National Guard, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, Armor Correctional Health Services and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services.