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Inmate deaths from COVID-19 double in Missouri; veteran deaths also rise

Inmate deaths from COVID-19 double in Missouri; veteran deaths also rise

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Jefferson City Correctional Center

Maximum security housing units at the Jefferson City Correctional Center sit below dormitory-style housing at the Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City. (Kelley McCall, Associated Press)

JEFFERSON CITY — The number of Missouri prison inmates who have died from COVID-19 doubled over the weekend as some facilities continue to see high numbers of virus cases.

The Missouri Department of Corrections reported a total of 10 deaths Friday night, up from five a day earlier, marking the system’s biggest jump in fatalities since the pandemic began in March.

The agency is reporting 1,062 active cases among inmates and 350 cases among staff at its 20 prisons and other facilities.

Hot spots include the prison in Fulton, where 237 inmates have tested positive, and the facility in St. Joseph, which has 133 cases among prisoners. The Jefferson City Correctional Center has 111 cases.

Unlike other states and other agencies within Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration, the department is not providing any details of the deceased inmates, including the location of the inmates, an age or age range, their race and what crime they committed.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health, for example, is providing limited information about resident and staff deaths. There have been four residents, all in St. Louis-area facilities, who have died.

Good government groups have criticized Corrections officials, saying the administration should be more transparent during a public health crisis.

Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said earlier that the agency is not releasing the information in “the interest of protecting privacy and confidential medical information.”

The Post-Dispatch was able to confirm one inmate death in September as Willie Earl Miller, 70, who was serving a 999-year sentence at the prison in Farmington for sexual assault.

In all, the state reported it has conducted 50,103 tests.

Also on Monday, the Missouri Veterans Commission reported 14 additional deaths among veteran residents in the last week. Officials have broken down deaths by facility.

Eighty-seven residents of Missouri veterans homes had died of COVID-19 since Sept. 1, Jamie Melchert, spokesman for the commission, said Monday.

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