Vaughn Correctional inmate dies from health complications, COVID-19

SMYRNA — A James T. Vaughn Correctional Center inmate has died from complications of COVID-19 and other chronic illnesses, officials said Wednesday.

Jose Rivera, a 54-year-old inmate with chronic health conditions, died Tuesday evening at Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus, of complications from chronic illnesses, including asthma, allergic rhinitis and osteoarthritis, as well as COVID-19, according to a news release.

Rivera received a rapid COVID-19 test at JTVCC on Dec. 5, testing positive after displaying symptoms of illness. He was admitted that same day to Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus, for observation and treatment.

As symptoms progressed, additional medical interventions were undertaken and Rivera was placed on a ventilator Dec. 16. As his condition continued to deteriorate, his family was engaged in treatment decision-making and he was placed on comfort care. He was pronounced dead by hospital staff at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Rivera’s body was released to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science to determine the exact cause of death. The Wilmington resident had been in Department of Correction custody since 2015 and was serving a 21-year sentence for strangulation and violating a no-contact order.

He is the first inmate to die from COVID-19-related complications in more than three-and-a-half months.

Over the past seven weeks, as community spread has spiked across Delaware, the DOC has experienced elevated numbers of COVID-19 cases, as well, officials said.

Last month, proactive screening and testing identified initial clusters of COVID-19 cases among inmates at JTVCC and Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, New Castle, followed by clusters of cases at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, and Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, later in November, the news release stated.

Aggressive proactive testing, quarantining and contact tracing continues, with more than 3,200 inmate COVID-19 tests administered since Nov. 1, on top of ongoing screening, quarantining, treatment and cleaning practices, officials said.

As of Tuesday, 752 inmates have recovered from COVID-19 since the November clusters were first identified. A total of 1,302 inmates have recovered from COVID-19 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the news release stated.

There are 262 inmates who still have active COVID-19 infections, of whom 90% have no symptoms.

There are 27 inmates with active COVID-19 infections who are symptomatic, including 13 who are hospitalized. No inmate patients are on ventilators, officials said.

There have been 12 COVID-19-related deaths among inmates (including Rivera) — 11 from complications from serious chronic diseases accompanying COVID-19 and one from COVID-19 solely, officials said.