Inmate dies in CUCF,
10th in state from COVID
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—A Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) inmate has died from COVID-19.
Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) officials announced on Wednesday that a 71-year old inmate who was COVID-19 positive was pronounced dead at the hospital on Tuesday night. The inmate was transferred to the hospital from CUCF after his symptoms became more serious than the facility infirmary could deal with.
This latest death is the 10th in the Utah prison system, but the first in Central Utah. Nine more COVID deaths previously occurred in the Draper facility, but Gunnison had avoided any until now.
As of Wednesday, the CUCF was up to 612 confirmed cases of coronavirus among inmates—nearly triple the number reported just two weeks ago. In total, 5177 inmates have been tested in the Gunnison facility.
According to Tony Washington, healthcare administrator for the UDC clinical services bureau, Gunnison is currently experiencing outbreaks of the virus in the Ironwood, Henry and Boulder sections of the CUCF.
Washington released a video broadcast last week meant for the families of inmates. In it, he said the UDC was hearing a lot of concerns from family members of incarcerated individuals and he wanted to address them.
“We follow up on your concerns 100 percent of the time,” Washington said in the address. “No concern is left unturned and we look into all of them. No one is sitting in a solitary cell not receiving medical care. It just doesn’t happen. I mention that because we hear people concerned that it is happening.”
Washington also said the pandemic had stressed the limits of their staffing, including medical staffing, but efforts are underway to improve medical staffing in both CUCF and the Utah State Prison in Draper.
“Really and truly our sincere wish is that you understand and recognize how hard we are working to care for your loved ones that are in this institution,” Washington said in closing. “Our medical staff is working extremely long hours and in all conditions to make sure people’s needs are met. It matters to us as much as it matters to you.”
The Messenger has been in contact with CUCF inmates, family members of inmates and inmate advocates such as the ACLU-Utah, many of whom express concern over the handling of the virus in both Utah prison facilities. Most recently, an inmate who was just released from the Gunnison prison contacted the Messenger, saying the concerns of other inmates and their families over the matter were well-placed, and the virus was not being taken seriously.
The CUCF is still operating on a modified lockdown and visitation and religious services are canceled until at least Jan. 15.