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Two Maryland inmates die of COVID-19, pushing death toll to 16

Two more Maryland inmates have died of COVID-19, pushing the state’s inmate death total to 16, according to number’s from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The inmates died just days apart, the department said. One of them was an inmate in his early 60s who was housed in the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland before he was hospitalized last month. The man died Dec. 11, the department confirmed.

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The next day, a man in his early 60s who was housed at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland died. He also was hospitalized prior to his death, the department said.

The North Branch Correctional Institution currently has the second-most confirmed COVID-19 cases for correctional facilities statewide since the start of the pandemic with 312. The Western Correctional Institution stands second with 203 cases, according to department numbers.

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The recent deaths bring to three the number of inmates who have died in December from virus complications. The Western Correctional Institution saw two inmate deaths this month. On Dec. 3, a man in his 70s who was housed at the prison died from complications of COVID-19.

The department said the inmates’ deaths this month come amid as Maryland and the country experience a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, said the recent deaths of inmates and spikes of COVID-19 cases inside of facilities is a sign that more needs to be done to curb the spread of the virus in the facilities before conditions worsen.

The Justice Policy Institute, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on criminal justice advocacy, noted that between Nov. 9 and Dec. 7, a total of 224 incarcerated people and 92 staff tested positive for COVID-19 in Maryland. The testing positivity rate was nearly 80% for correctional staff and 23% for inmates at North Branch Correctional Institution, according to the institute’s analysis of the corrections department’s data.

During the same period at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County, 515 incarcerated people and 68 staff tested positive. The positivity rate was over 50% for both correctional staff and inmates, the organization noted.

“It is very alarming now that we have these deaths. We got a crisis that is starting to explode in Maryland prisons and it is not getting the attention that it merits,” Schindler said. “There should be alarm bells ringing for state officials and the public right now.”

A total of 43,677 inmates have been tested for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic with 2,666 inmates testing positive, according to department numbers.

Two correctional staff members, Karen Kennedy, 60, and Barthphine Maduh, 68, have died from COVID-19. Both officers worked at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center and died just months a part.

“The health, safety and well-being of our employees, inmates and detainees remains the Department’s top priority, and the Department continues to do everything possible to slow the spread of the virus,” said Latoya Gray, a department spokeswoman.

Maryland reported 2,866 new COVID cases and 60 more deaths Thursday. The state has averaged 2,515 new cases per day over the last 14 days, down from last week’s peak 14-day rolling average of 2,757 new cases per day.

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