Alaska News

Man dies in COVID-19 outbreak at Kenai Peninsula prison

A 68-year-old man incarcerated at Wildwood Correctional Center died of COVID-19 on Friday at a Kenai Peninsula hospital.

John Nelson Andrew is the sixth person to die of the coronavirus in Department of Corrections custody since the beginning of the pandemic. He was the ninth person from any cause to die in DOC custody this year.

Andrew had been incarcerated since 2011, the department said in a statement released Monday.

There are currently 187 cases among inmates at the prison, said DOC spokeswoman Betsy Holley. One person is hospitalized. Wildwood Correctional Center has a capacity of 360 inmates and Wildwood Pretrial can house 116, Holley said.

The corrections department didn’t say how many staff members at Wildwood are currently positive for the virus.

“We don’t keep a log of staff positives as they are not required to report,” Holley wrote. Enough correctional officers and other staff are at work to “ensure the safety and security of all staff and inmates,” she wrote.

Angela Hall’s husband is serving a sentence at the prison. Hall, the founder of Supporting Our Loved Ones Group, which advocates for incarcerated people, said the outbreak has been going on for about two weeks but widespread testing didn’t happen until last Wednesday.

Her husband tested positive, but has mild symptoms, she said. He’s been moved around the prison several times, even while positive, she said. The department’s response to the outbreak seems “disorganized,” she said.

Incarcerated people can get monoclonal antibody treatments if they meet the clinical criteria, Holley said.

Since March 2020, a total of 2,440 general population prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, across the state, according to the most recently available corrections department statistics. Twenty-eight people have been hospitalized and six have died.

As of last week, 223 inmates have been vaccinated while at Wildwood, according to the department. Inmates are offered vaccines but not required to take them.

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