3 California prison inmates die from COVID-19 complications

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Three prisoners in a California prison died from what appears to be a complication of COVID-19, while hundreds more in a federal blockade tested positive for the virus, officials said on Thursday.

Three inmates at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino died in external hospitals on Wednesday and Thursday, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced.

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The exact causes of their deaths have yet to be determined, according to a department statement.

Just Thursday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said 574 prisoners and 25 officials had tested positive for COVID-19 at several Lompoc penitentiary facilities in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles.

Nearly half of the 1,162 inmates were infected at the low-security Federal Correctional Institute Lompoc, where all inmates are being tested for the virus, officials said.

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All visits to the facilities have been suspended "until further notice" and prisoners are not allowed to use telephone and e-mail stations until May 18, the prison said.

"This action is being taken to prevent the transmission of the virus by touching keyboards and telephone sets," according to a prison website, which asked those wishing to contact the prisoners to send letters by mail.

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At least 33 inmates and 14 employees at the Lompoc Penitentiary in the United States for medium security have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said. Two older inmates with pre-existing health conditions died in external hospitals on April 16 and on Wednesday.

The decision has not yet been made to test all prison inmates, who this week completed a hospital care unit that will care for patients with viruses in prison instead of sending them to outside hospitals.

The authorities tried to reduce the population of overcrowded prisons, where it is difficult to practice social measures. In late March, the state ordered the release of 3,500 prisoners who were about to finish their sentences.

Six inmates at the Terminal Island federal prison in Los Angeles died of the virus and more than 600 inmates were infected.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that go away in two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.

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