A county correctional officer has died of COVID-19, the first known death of an employee of Miami-Dade’s detention system from the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Jairo Bravo, 48, died Friday evening, the county’s Corrections Department said Monday. He was a new guard at the Turner G. Knight jail in western Miami-Dade. He started work with Corrections in January. There was no information provided on when he tested positive or on when he was last at work.
Bravo was one of 238 Corrections employees who had tested positive COVID, out of roughly 3,000 workers in the county agency. That’s about 8% of the workforce. Known cases in the inmate population show roughly the same infection rate of 8%, with 243 inmates testing positive in a population of 3,274 people in detention.
Miami-Dade’s police union first revealed Bravo’s death on Monday morning.
“It’s the first one we know of,” said Steadman Stahl, president of the South Florida Police Benevolent Association. Stahl said the correctional officer was a 48-year-old man but did not provide information about the officer or where he worked.
“This disease is affecting everything we’re doing,” Stahl said during a morning news conference called to promote the mayoral campaign of County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo.
Stahl mentioned the correctional officer’s death as an example of the hazards police face in 2020. The union endorsed Bovo in the race to succeed a term-limited Carlos Gimenez as county mayor.
The officer’s death highlights the danger facing jails and prisons across the country as local, state and federal governments face the challenge of keeping inmates and employees protected from a disease that thrives in close quarters.
In April, a federal judge ordered Miami-Dade to improve social-distancing efforts at its Metro West jail after inmates sued over what they claimed were dangerous conditions. At the time, more than 300 inmates across the system had tested positive for COVID-19.
A month later, about 40% of the Corrections Department’s COVID tests were coming back positive, with nearly 500 inmates diagnosed with the disease.
Like other counties, Miami-Dade has reduced its jail population during COVID through early release and expanded home-detention programs. There were about 4,320 people in county jails in June 2019 and 3,200 in June — a drop of roughly 25%.