Wisconsin prisoner dies at UW Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19

MADISON, Wis. — Another Wisconsin prisoner has died after testing positive for COVID-19, the Dane County Medical Examiner’s office said Thursday. It’s the third known death of a prisoner at a facility of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections after testing positive for COVID-19.

The 54-year-old African-American man was an inmate at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, and had been transferred to the UW Hospital to be treated for COVID-19 according to the DCME’s director of operations Barry Irmen. The cause of death has not yet been determined, and Irmen noted there were multiple comorbidities; an autopsy is scheduled for later today.

The inmate died Wednesday. The death comes after two other Wisconsin prisoners at the Dodge Correctional Institution were reported to have died in September after contracting the virus. As of Thursday afternoon, the DOC does not disclose the number of COVID-19 deaths in the system to the public, citing HIPAA laws. Irmen, who is also the director of operations at the Brown County’s medical examiner’s office, said the death is the only prisoner death following a positive COVID-19 test that he’s aware of so far at DOC facilities in Dane or Brown County this year.

According to DOC data posted October 7, there are 304 total and 0 active cases of COVID-19 at GBCI. Other facilities are currently hit even harder: Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution has 446 active cases, while Oshkosh Correctional Institution has 347 active cases*. Because the DOC has deferred to local medical examiners for details about COVID-19 deaths, it is unknown just how many prisoners have already died in Wisconsin after testing positive for the virus.

The DOC said in a statement to News 3 Now earlier on Thursday that, “The DOC can confirm when a person in our care passes away, but confidentiality laws and privacy protections prevent us from sharing information related to their medical diagnoses.”

The DOC added that the safety and well-being of its staff and inmates are one of its top priorities.

“We are responding with all available resources to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our institutions and treat those in our care who contract the virus,” DOC said in a statement.

*This article has been clarified to reflect active cases versus total cases at these institutions.