The flurry of federal executions performed in the last days of the Trump administration were likely coronavirus superspreader events, a new analysis from the Associated Press shows.
At least 33 prisoners on death row tested positive for the deadly virus between Dec. 16 and Dec. 20, according to the report.
Inmate infections ramped up after the executions of Alfred Bourgeois Dec. 11 and Brandon Bernard Dec. 10. The virus also spread among execution support staff, witnesses and at least one Zen Buddhist priest –Yusuf Ahmed Nur.
Nur was there acting as a spiritual advisor for Orlando Cordia Hall, who was executed Nov. 19. He tested positive for the virus just days layer.
“I could not say no to a man who would soon be killed,” Nur wrote in December. “That I contracted Covid-19 in the process was collateral damage.”
Most federal death row inmates are confined at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute Indiana. Since the start of the pandemic, roughly 726 inmates at the facility have tested positive for the virus from a population of around 1,200, according to statistics from the Bureau of Prisons.
Lawyers, activists and medical professionals had attempted to delay the executions until after the pandemic had passed, American Medical Association CEO James Madara said in a letter last month to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“These are the type of high-risk superspreader events that the (American Medical Association) and (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have been warning against throughout the pandemic,” Madara wrote.