First state inmate death tied to coronavirus is reported; patient had been incarcerated in Chino

California corrections officials announced Sunday the first prison inmate death from complications related to COVID-19.

The inmate died at a hospital after contracting the coronavirus at the California Institution for Men in Chino, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement. The agency did not immediately say when the inmate died.

No further details were released to protect the inmate’s medical privacy and next of kin was notified, the statement said.

“CDCR takes the health and safety of all those who live and work in our state prisons very seriously and will continue to work diligently to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” the agency said in a statement.

Fifty-nine inmates and 22 employees at the Chino prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Statewide, 115 incarcerated persons and 88 prison system employees have tested positive for the virus, as outbreaks continue to hit California’s most vulnerable populations, including people in nursing homes, on the streets or in homeless shelters.

The men’s prison in Chino was among the first state prisons to report a positive case among its employees on March 21.

In March, leading up to those initial infections, CDCR officials began to make sweeping changes to prevent the coronavirus from spreading into corrections facilities, such as banning all visitations to prisons and suspending rehabilitation programs – often hosted by non-profit advocacy groups – as well as the postponement of parole hearings.

After urging from a coalition of advocate groups such as Justice Collaborative, American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, California Public Defender’s Association, and Los Angeles County Public Defenders, state prison officials announced on March 31 they would release an estimated 3,500 inmates early.

And the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health said this month it would help state corrections officials identify and trace the origins of the coronavirus infections at the Chino prison.

Besides the coronavirus cases at state prisons, two inmates held at a federal prison in San Pedro have died from the coronavirus.

Staff writer Jonah Valdez contributed to this story.