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2 more Minnesota prison inmates die after getting COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, eight COVID-positive inmates in Minnesota prisons have died.

Two more men incarcerated at Minnesota Correctional Facilities (MCF) have died after recently being diagnosed with COVID-19. 

A 66-year-old man incarcerated at MCF-Faribault and a 63-year-old man from MCF-Moose Lake who was being treated at Abbott Northwestern Hospital died Dec. 10, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) said in a news release Friday. 

Both men had recently been diagnosed with COVID-19. Their identities will be released after their families are notified. 

“This has been a difficult day for the Department of Corrections,” DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of these men."

These two deaths – the first at MCF-Moose Lake and the fourth at MCF-Faribault – mark the seventh and eighth COVID-related deaths among incarcerated people in the state's DOC system since the start of the pandemic, the release said. 

According to the DOC's COVID-19 dashboard, which was most recently updated on Dec. 9 (it doesn't include the two most recent deaths or all of the active cases), 3,331 inmates have tested positive for the virus, with 2,799 inmates having recovered. 

The dashboard shows the facilities in Faribault and Moose Lake seeing an increase in positive cases starting in early November after months of no new cases being reported. 

MCF-Faribault currently has 621 COVID-positive incarcerated people and 54 staff with COVID-19, the news release says. At MCF-Moose Lake, 45 inmates and 20 staff currently have COVID-19.

Within the entire DOC system, there are three incarcerated individuals who are in critical condition and receiving ventilator treatment at hospitals, the release notes. And there are "several" DOC staff members who are hospitalized due to COVID-19.

"We continue to do everything in our power to mitigate and contain the spread of COVID in our facilities," Schnell said in the release. 

The Minnesota DOC has been criticized for not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among inmates, with the ACLU-Minnesota filing a lawsuit in October claiming inmates are not adequately protected from COVID-19. However, the DOC has said it is doing everything it can to protect them.

The measures the DOC has taken to help limit the spread of COVID-19 include testing all inmates and staff, requiring masks, implementing a "stay with unit" plan so inmates only spend time with those in their living units, and installing handwashing stations. Individual prisons have also enacted facility-specific measures, which include lock-ups/lockdowns when there's a significant rise in cases among inmantes. 

At MCF-Faribault, all inmates who tested positive had been isolated and are being monitored, but the DOC website does not indicate the prison has gone into a medical lockdown/lock-up status as MCF-St. Cloud and MCF-Stillwater did recently following a spike in COVID-19 cases among inmates at their respective facilities. 

The DOC website for MCF-Moose Lake's COVID-19 response does not highlight any new measures being taken as of Dec. 10. 

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