Trump’s federal executions may have helped spread COVID

Renee G
·3 min read

Lawyers, activists and medical professionals attempted to delay the executions until after the pandemic

The flood of federal executions that occurred in the last days of the Trump administration were potential coronavirus super spreader events, according to new analysis from the Associated Press.

Inmate infections increased after the executions of Alfred Bourgeois on Dec. 11 and Brandon Bernard on Dec. 10, and by Dec. 20, at least 33 prisoners on death row had tested positive for the deadly disease.

Read More: Trump committed to carrying out federal executions before leaving office

Not limited to inmates, the virus also spread among execution support staff, witnesses and a business professor at Indiana University — Yusuf Ahmed Nur — who practices Islam.

Nur, who acted as a spiritual advisor for Orlando Cordia Hall, who was executed Nov. 19, tested positive for the virus just days later, according to the ACLU.

“I knew when I went to Orlando’s execution that I was stepping into a high-risk environment,” Nur wrote. “Prisons are petri dishes for COVID-19, and executions only add to the risk because they draw hundreds of people who travel from across the country, including correctional and Department of Justice staff, family members of the victim and the accused, lawyers, and press.”

Nur went on to say that when Hall asked him to stand at his deathbed to conduct the rites of passage and bring him comfort through their shared faith, he could not deny him. “I could not say no to a man who would soon be killed. The tenants of my faith demanded as much. Helping him was more important than the risk to myself.”

The majority of federal death row inmates are confined at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Statistics from the Bureau of Prisons show that since the start of the pandemic, roughly 726 inmates at the facility have tested positive for the virus from a population of around 1,200.

Read More: Department of Justice asked to investigate federal executions under Trump

Lawyers, activists and medical professionals had attempted to delay the executions until after the pandemic had passed, American Medical Association CEO James Madara said in a letter last month to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“These are the type of high-risk super spreader events that the (American Medical Association) and (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have been warning against throughout the pandemic,” Madara wrote.

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