DOC inmate dies from COVID-19-related complications as positive cases increase


Nick Perez,

A 75-year-old inmate from James T. Vaughn Correctional (JTVCC) died Thursday afternoon due to complications of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and COVID-19.

James Waller was part of a minimum security housing unit that has been closely monitored since April 8.  He tested positive after being moved to the prison infirmary when had a fever on April 26, Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) announced Thursday.

DOC said Walker was then admitted to Bayhealth Hospital's Kent Campus after testing positive. Days later, Waller's condition deteriorated and he was receiving palliative care.

Waller's body was released to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science to determine the cause of death, DOC said.

Originally from Laurel, Waller has been in DOC's custody since 1978 and was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

“We are saddened that an inmate we had been actively monitoring for three weeks has passed away today from complications from underlying health conditions and COVID," DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a statement Thursday. "We continue our comprehensive protocol of testing, temperature checks, screenings, intensive cleanings and minimizing movement to combat this virus. We are optimistic that the number of recoveries continues to grow."

More confirmed cases and recoveries

Five inmates from a minimum security building at JTVCC tested positive for coronavirus after being identified and isolated at the first sign of illness, DOC said.

DOC said three test results came through rapid COVID testing administered and processed on-site at JTVCC on April 29.

They've been moved to the JTVCC's COVID-19 treatment center, according to officials.

Five correctional officers and cadets also tested positive.

DOC said three correctional officers worked at JTVCC. Two officers' last on duty was on April 20. The other's was April 24. 

The two correctional officers cadets worked at Lt. Steven Floyd Training Academy. The cadets were worked on April 14 and 27, according to officials.

All of the officers and cadets went into self-isolation at home when they developed symptoms and were subsequently tested, the department said.

DOC says the two officers continue to self-isolate at home and one is being treated in an area hospital in stable condition.

All academy cadets and officers are required to wear face masks and practice social distancing, DOC said. 

No additional information will be provided about the identity of the inmates, officers, or cadets for privacy protection, DOC said.

The state prison system also said three more inmates recovered from COVID-19.

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