3 more Michigan prison inmates die from COVID-19

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Three more Michigan Department of Corrections prisoners have died from COVID-19, bringing the total inmate fatalities to five, state officials confirmed Thursday.

Two staffers have also died from the virus.

Two prisoners, identified as Jack Ronald Earl, 79, and Kendrick Bernard Lee, 52, both were incarcerated at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson County, department spokesman Chris Gautz said.

Earl tested positive on March 26 and died on Wednesday. Lee's diagnosis was confirmed on March 31 and he died on Thursday, Gautz told The Detroit News.

Parnall is the facility with the highest number of prisoners, 138, who have tested positive, MDOC records show. It is also where the first Michigan inmate who died was held. Joe Kearney, 55, had not told health care workers he was feeling sick, corrections officials said.

An inmate at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, identified as Warren Lee Wright, died Tuesday, two days after the 73-year-old had tested positive, Gautz said.

A fifth prisoner, whose name has not been released, died April 4 but his test results were confirmed five days later, Gautz said. He had been held at the Detroit Re-entry Center.

The department listed 338 prisoners statewide as testing positive for coronavirus through Thursday.

For staff, the number was 142. So far, two have died. One was a transportation officer, while the other handled word processing in a different facility and is believed to have contracted the virus elsewhere, Gautz said.

The corrections department is continuing to follow guidelines in cleaning facilities, monitoring inmates and staff as well as restricting visitation, he said, and screening for workers has been enhanced in the last week.

"We take this with the utmost seriousness and are doing everything we can to prevent any further passing of life," Gautz said. "This is just a very difficult time for the department and state. We see the number of cases and deaths going up and we are seeing that reflected in our facilities."

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan hit 21,504 Thursday. The death toll increased by 117 to 1,076.