100+ coronavirus cases reported at South Carolina prison

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COLUMBIA (AP) — More than 100 inmates have been infected with COVID-19 in a South Carolina prison where one inmate has already died from the disease caused by the coronavirus.

According to numbers on the website of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, 124 inmates at the Tyger River Correctional Institution have been diagnosed with the disease. That represents the largest outbreak throughout South Carolina's prison system and about one-third of the 322 total infections reported among its inmate population as of Monday afternoon.

Thus far, 146 staff members across the agency have reported testing positive for the virus.

Tyger River is a medium-security men's prison in Enoree, about 75 miles (121 kms) northwest of Columbia. Last week, prison officials confirmed that a 58-year-old inmate there had died of complications from COVID-19, a week after being hospitalized for his symptoms. Stanley Smith was the third South Carolina state prison inmate to die in the outbreak.

Prison officials have long warned of the danger of what an outbreak could mean behind bars, with isolation and social distancing difficult in the institutions' confined spaces. At Tyger River, Corrections officials have said inmates in most living units are in isolation or quarantine to help stem the spread.

In June, Corrections Director Bryan Stirling told a U.S. Senate committee examining coronavirus in prisons across the nation said reconfiguring units to try to stem the spread had been "very costly," with expenses also mounting for protective equipment for inmates and staff alike. Stirling also said inmates' vital signs including temperature were checked twice daily to monitor possible virus-related concerns.

Positive tests for the new coronavirus have been on the rise overall throughout South Carolina, where health officials on Monday reported 1,505 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths. The state has now tallied 46,247 total reported cases and 819 deaths, reporting more than 1,200 confirmed cases daily for 12 days in a row.

Last week, escalating numbers placed South Carolina third in the nation in newly diagnosed cases over the past 14 days adjusted by population.