Stillwater prison inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

Stone sign outside Stillwater prison.
Guard towers and fencing surrounds the Stillwater Correctional Facility in October 2019.
John Minchillo | AP 2019

Minnesota corrections officials announced late Sunday that an inmate at the Stillwater prison died after testing positive for COVID-19.

The 61-year-old man who died Sunday morning is the third COVID-related death of an inmate in Minnesota state correctional facilities. And it comes as more than 750 of the 1,278 inmates at the Stillwater prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.

More than 150 staff members at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater also have tested positive.

Officials said most of the inmates who have tested positive are not experiencing symptoms.

The name of the inmate who died Sunday has not been released. The Minnesota Department of Corrections in a news release said the man had an "extensive medical history" and tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 20. He was evaluated at a hospital on Saturday before being discharged and transported back to the prison, where he died the next day. An autopsy is planned.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of this man,” Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a news release. “Since the beginning of this pandemic we’ve worked to take all reasonable steps to minimize the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in the state’s correctional facilities for the well-being of those we serve and our staff."

The department said the first COVID-19 case in the Stillwater prison was not reported until late September, and "the speed of COVID case spread at Stillwater is uncharacteristic of the experiences to date at other facilities that have experienced outbreaks. ... We continue to investigate whether facility age, design, and infrastructure may influence the spread of COVID-19 and other viral infections, such as the flu."

The Stillwater prison has been on lockdown, and officials have been conducting regular testing and increasing ventilation to try to control the outbreak.

The previous two inmate deaths from COVID-19 occurred in June at the prison in Faribault.

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