First Houtzdale prisoner dies from COVID-19

HOUTZDALE — Officials from the state correctional institute at Houtzdale issued a statement Wednesday confirming their first inmate death from COVID-19.

The inmate, 59, had underlying medical conditions and was sent to a hospital Dec. 27, where he tested positive for the virus, according to the press release. He died Tuesday. His name is not being released.

He was serving a 24- to 48-year sentence for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child younger than 13. He was housed at this prison for almost a year.

“We continue our battle against this dangerous invisible enemy,” Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in the release. “We are experiencing a resurgence. That is why it is vital to continue our aggressive mitigation efforts. We cannot let our guard down.”

The facility reportedly has 39 active inmate cases, and 29 active cases among the staff.

When inmates test positive, they are put in isolation or taken to local hospitals “depending on the level of medical care required,” Wetzel said.

Staff members who test positive are required to isolate at home and must have a doctor’s note saying they are free of the virus before they can return.

“We are experiencing the same thing that our counties are experiencing, and we are following very strict procedures to mitigate the virus’ impact on our state prisons,” Wetzel said. “I’ve directed our staff to act aggressively and quickly when inmates report influenza-like illnesses, and that includes isolating and quarantining inmates, locking down units or entire prisons as needed, conducting regular cleanings and even 72-hour deep cleanings in order to protect staff and inmates.”


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