Another inmate dies at Sussex Correctional Institution from COVID-19 complications

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A COVID-19 outbreak at the Delaware Department of Corrections has claimed the life of another inmate at the Sussex Correctional Institution Tuesday officials say.

DOVER (DE): 40-Year-Old Michael Harris is dead from COVID-19 complications according to the Delaware Department of Corrections (DOC). Officials say Harris died on Tuesday evening, January 19 at Beebe Hospital from complications from chronic illnesses, including Asthma, Diabetes, Chronic Pain Syndrome, and COVID-19.

The bottom line is, Harris died from COVID-19 as a vulnerable inmate with underlying health conditions.

According to DOC spokesman Jason Miller, “Harris, from Dover, DE, has been in and out of DOC custody for the past 23 years.  Most recently, he has been in DOC custody since February, 2020 and was found guilty on December 16, 2020 of Manufacturing/Delivery/Possession with the Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance and Endangering the Welfare of a Child.  He was sentenced to one year in prison, followed by one year of Level IV DOC Supervision.”

Miller said Harris received a rapid test at SCI on January 10 and tested positive after displaying symptoms of illness. He was immediately moved to the SCI COVID-19 Treatment Center where inmate patients receive round-the-clock monitoring and care. 

On January 13 as his symptoms progressed Harris was admitted to Beebe Hospital for additional treatment and monitoring. 

On January 19 Harris’s condition suddenly deteriorated and he was place on a ventilator.  Harris was pronounced dead by hospital staff at 11:10 p.m. on January 19.

Harris’s body was released to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science to determine cause of death.  

Although inmates are confined to individual facilities, the DOC points it’s fingers at “Community Spread” on the outside.

Over the past eleven weeks, as community spread has spiked across Delaware the DOC has experienced elevated numbers of COVID-19 cases. 

Testing has identified clusters at every correctional facility in Delaware including the Plummer Community Corrections Center in Wilmington.

Proactive screening and testing identified initial clusters of cases in early November among inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, followed by clusters of cases at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution and Sussex Correctional Institution later in November, and more recently a cluster of cases at Plummer Community Corrections Center.  

DOC TestingDOC Case Data
Aggressive proactive testing, quarantine, and contact tracing have continued, with 5,172 inmate COVID tests administered since November 1 on top of ongoing screening, quarantine, treatment, and cleaning practices.

Inmate COVID-19 case data as of January 19, 2021:

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, 10,571 inmate COVID tests have been administered.
  • 1,792 inmates have recovered from COVID since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including 1,242 inmate recoveries since the November clusters were first identified.
  • 84 inmates have active COVID-19 infection, including 21 inmates who are symptomatic.  2 inmate COVID-19 patients are hospitalized and no inmate patients are on a ventilator.
  • Over the past four months (since mid-September) more than 1,300 inmates have recovered from COVID-19, while two inmates have died from COVID-related complications.
  • Since April there have been a total of 13 COVID-related inmate deaths (including Harris), including 12 from complications from serious chronic diseases and COVID-19 and 1 from COVID-19.

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Delaware Newsline is a digital Delaware News Organization that provides local and national breaking news content to its Delaware and U.S. audience, by utilizing multiple platforms including web, social media, and video.

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