There are now at least four state prisoners who have died after a COVID-19 diagnosis. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections reported two more deaths Monday night.
One man incarcerated at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center died in a hospital Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19. The agency said in a news release that the man’s cause of death still needed to be determined by the state medical examiner’s office.
Another man incarcerated at Joseph Harp Correctional Center actually died on September 3, but the agency said it didn’t initially announce his death because the medical examiner determined he didn’t die from COVID-19.
Recently the department began sharing prisoner deaths that could be related to the infection as well as deaths officials believe were caused by the disease. Department of Corrections spokesperson Justin Wolf says this change in reporting is why the man’s death is being announced now.
There has been a lot of confusion over the question: What is a COVID-19 death?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines to help officials correctly report deaths caused by the disease.
StateImpact has not yet been able to review death reports for Oklahoma’s prisoners who died after a COVID-19 diagnosis. Citing medical privacy rules, Wolf said they are not releasing the prisoners’ names.
The announcement of the deaths comes as the Department of Corrections is in the midst of another major COVID-19 outbreak inside a state prison.
Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center – a minimum security prison for men in Vinita – reported 202 prisoners infected with COVID as of Monday. The prison held a total of 416 men at the time of the report.
This is part of a recent string of outbreaks inside prisons around the state that have angered prisoners’ families and advocates. As of Monday, a total of 662 Oklahoma prisoners had COVID and 10 were hospitalized.