8th Terminal Island inmate infected with COVID-19 dies, after officials say he recovered; 70% of prisoners at facility test positive

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The exterior of the Federal Correctional Institute on Terminal Island is seen on Feb. 27, 2019, in the Port of Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The exterior of the Federal Correctional Institute on Terminal Island is seen on Feb. 27, 2019, in the Port of Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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A 54-year-old man incarcerated at the federal prison on Terminal Island in San Pedro died after contracting COVID-19, prison officials said Monday.

Adrian Solarzano had recovered after first testing positive for the virus on April 16 and being placed in isolation, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was deemed to be recovered on May 10 after no longer showing symptoms, in accordance to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, officials said.

Days later, on May 15, he was admitted to a local hospital for complaints of chest pain and anxiety, and was tested twice — the same day and the following day — for COVID-19. The results came back negative, officials said, but his condition continued to worsen.

On May 24, Solarzano, who had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions, was pronounced dead by hospital staff.

So far, eight people at the low-security prison that houses 1,023 men, have died from the virus, and 13 staff members and 723 inmates have reportedly tested positive — that’s 70% of prisoners at the facility — according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Solarzano, who been in custody at the facility since August 2013, was serving a 24-year sentence for racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations conspiracy, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and felon in possession of firearm.

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán, who represents California’s 44th District, toured the federal prison on May 12, after a seventh inmate had died from the virus. She compared the conditions inside the prison to those of detention centers at the Mexico-U.S. border.

“While I was there, I would hear the inmates screaming that were in isolation units,” Barragán said. “‘Saying ‘turn on the air, get us some air, help me, I need to make a call.’”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a pair of class-action lawsuits on May 16 on behalf of federal prisoners at Lompoc and Terminal Island, claiming officials mishandled coronavirus outbreaks at the facilities, where nearly 2,000 people have contracted the virus.

The suit claims that overcrowding makes it impossible for prisoners to maintain social distancing and to take other precautions. It also says officials have refused to allow the majority of inmates to be released for home confinement, despite directives to do so, resulting in cruel and unusual punishment.

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