By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The death toll from COVID-19 at a U.S. prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, has continued climbing, with a fourth inmate now dead, the Bureau of Prisons said on Thursday, as it grappled with outbreaks at other penal institutions.
The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has wreaked havoc on the federal prison system, prompting the bureau earlier this week to impose a 14-day lockdown for inmates at all of its 122 institutions across the country.
Federal Correctional Institution 1, a low-security facility holding about 980 inmates that is one of several facilities comprising the prison in Oakdale in south-central Louisiana, is so far the hardest hit in the nationwide system.
Eighteen inmates, as well as 17 staff members now have COVID-19, said Ronald Morris, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1007 union. Dozens more are isolation with symptoms, he added.
As of Wednesday, there were 57 federal inmates with COVID-19 across the nation, the Bureau of Prisons said. In addition to Oakdale, other hard-hit prisons include one in Butner, North Carolina with nine inmates sick. A low-security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, also has nine inmates sick with COVID-19.
The bureau on Thursday identified the third inmate who died of COVID-19 at Oakdale as James Wilson, 57, who went into respiratory failure on Monday. He was taken to a hospital and placed on a ventilator the next day, where he died on Wednesday.
The other two inmate COVID-19 fatalities were younger than Wilson. Nicholas Rodriguez, 43, died on Wednesday. Patrick Jones, the first reported federal inmate to succumb to the COVID-19, died on Saturday at age 49.
The bureau did not yet have any further details on the fourth inmate.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis)