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Third Federal Inmate Dies From COVID-19

Updated 8:34 p.m. ET

A third person held at the federal prison in Oakdale, La., has died of COVID-19, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons officials. The person's name was not released while authorities notified the person's next of kin.

The second patient to die, Nicholas Rodriquez, 43, became ill on March 25 and had a high temperature and a rapid heartbeat, BOP officials said. He was transported to a local hospital that day, and tested positive for COVID-19. Rodriquez was placed on a ventilator on March 27, after his condition deteriorated. He died on April 1.

BOP officials said Rodriquez had long-term, preexisting medical conditions which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease. Rodriguez was serving a 188-month sentence on drug charges, and had been at the Oakdale facility for about a year.

The Federal Correctional Institution, Oakdalehas seen a rampant spread of the virus.

Ronald Morris, a maintenance foreman at the prison and president of the prison's union local, said nine inmates tested positive for the coronavirus, and there were 32 more with symptoms and 64 who had been exposed. Of those, 15 inmates were in local hospitals. Meanwhile, eight staff tested positive, 16 more had symptoms and one was in an intensive care unit at a hospital.

The Bureau of Prisons told The Lens that it has stopped testing for the virus at the facility because the outbreak is so widespread. Instead, anyone with symptoms is assumed to have COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the bureau told the news outlet that the move is intended "to conserve valuable testing resources," and added that the bureau had no plans to release nationwide testing figures. The last update was Monday, and reported 28 inmates and 24 staff had tested positive across U.S. federal prisons.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Prisons began a 14-day quarantine for inmates systemwide to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.