Federal Executions Jarred by Positive Virus Test

The staffer was helping prepare for the first federal executions in nearly 20 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 12, 2020 4:30 PM CDT
As Federal Executions Loom, Staffer Gets the Coronavirus
In this June 11, 2001 file photo, an aerial view of the execution facility at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., is shown.   (AP Photo/Michael Conroy File)

The federal Bureau of Prisons said Sunday that a staff member involved in preparing for the first federal executions in nearly two decades has tested positive for coronavirus, the AP reports. The Justice Department said the development will not mean an additional delay in the government’s timetable, already stalled by a federal court, because the worker had not been in the execution chamber and had not come into contact with anyone on the specialized team sent to the prison to handle the execution. The agency made the disclosure in court filings in response to lawsuits that have sought to halt executions scheduled to resume Monday. The staff member apparently learned on Wednesday that the staffer had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The staff member immediately left work and notified the bureau Saturday about the positive test, per the court filing. The staff member did not wear a mask at all times during meetings with other Bureau of Prisons employees and other law enforcement officials in the days before learning of the exposure, the agency said. The bureau says the staff member did not enter the execution facility or the prison’s command center and left the facility before the dozens of Bureau of Prisons employees who are part of the team handling the executions arrived. The Bureau of Prisons also started contact tracing to identify other staff members who may have had contact with the employee. The disclosure comes as the Justice Department is fighting to proceed with the first federal execution since 2003.

(More coronavirus stories.)

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