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Wayne County sheriff commander dies of coronavirus; 18 staff test positive

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — A veteran commander at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office died Wednesday due to the coronavirus, the Sheriff's Office announced.

Cmdr. Donafay Collins, 63, was with the Sheriff's Office almost 30 years, the department said in a statement. He is survived by his wife and four children.

Commander Donafay Collins was 63

The Sheriff's Office reported that 18 staffers or contractors have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday night. On Sunday night that number was six.  

More:6 Wayne County sheriff's staff test positive for COVID-19

Collins worked at the Division 2 jail downtown, the old jail, which is considered the toughest facility in the system due to the high-risk inmates it handles. 

More:Wayne Co. Jail releases pregnant, 'vulnerable' inmates due to virus risk

Collins had been hospitalized for weeks. In addition to the coronavirus, he had "some underlying medical issues," Napoleon said.

"He looked very healthy," Napoleon said. "But you never know what's going on."

Collins is the third law enforcement staffer in Detroit or Wayne County to die from coronavirus-related illnesses this week. On Tuesday, the Detroit Police Department announced the deaths Monday of a 38-year-old dispatcher Monday and Jonathan Parnell, commander of the homicide section, on Tuesday.

Collins was a DJ on Mix 92.3 FM until last year. 

"During the day Commander Collins is the CO of court services; however when he’s off-duty he’s displaying his vocal abilities as an emcee for various events, including the hugely popular Friday night “Back Jam Show” broadcast live from Lucky’s Restaurant in Southfield," a biography on the Sheriff's Office website says.

More:Detroit homicide chief, 'extraordinary leader,' dies after falling ill with virus

2018:Collins participates in forum bridging gaps between police, youth

Due to the close living quarters and conditions, jails are thought to be a breeding ground for the coronavirus.

Those in the Wayne County justice system, including sheriff, prosecutor and chief circuit court judge, meet regularly and remotely to discuss which low-crime inmates at high risk for the virus high-coronavirus risk, low-crime risk inmates can safely be released from the jail during the outbreak. The Wayne County Jail population fell by almost 250 inmates between March 10 and March 24, when there were 1,134. More are expected to be released daily.

The jail also has contracted services for deep cleaning at its three adult facilities.