Man dies from COVID-19 outbreak that infected 1 in 3 Sussex prisoners

Sussex Correctional Institution. (Delaware Department of Correction)

Sussex Correctional Institution. (Delaware Department of Correction)

As of Friday, Delaware reported 14,202 coronavirus cases and 578 related deaths, with 55 people currently hospitalized.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The first inmate has died from the coronavirus outbreak that ravaged Delaware’s Sussex Correctional Institution — infecting 352 incarcerated men, more than a third of the population — prison officials said.

John W. Rosciolo, 78, who had underlying conditions, was pronounced dead at Bayhealth Hospital in Dover from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary artery disease and COVID-19, prisons spokesman Jason Miller said.

Rosciolo has been incarcerated for 42 years, serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.

He is the eighth incarcerated man in Delaware to die a coronavirus-related death. The others had been prisoners at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna but one had underlying medical conditions.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Miller gave this account of Rosciolo’s illness and death:

He came down with a fever on July 5, four days after the first case at the Sussex prison was detected, and was given a rapid test. It came back positive and Rosciolo was transferred to the larger Vaughn prison and treated in its infirmary and COVID-19 treatment unit.

On July 9 Rosciolo was admitted to Bayhealth, where in recent days his condition worsened. He was pronounced dead at 2:04 a.m. Friday.

Of the 88 remaining SCI prisoners who have tested positive, 18 have symptoms. Five of the men are hospitalized and two are being treated in the prison infirmaries. The rest have recovered, Miller said.

Another 27 Sussex prison guards — nearly 1 in 10 — and four other employees there were also infected.

A smaller outbreak at the Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover infected 20 people but only three are still positive, all without symptoms. The first three people infected at Morris had been transferred from the Sussex prison in Georgetown.

Corrections commissioner Claire DeMatteis said more people will continue to recover every day “due to our aggressive mitigation and treatment efforts.”

Follow-up testing is being conducted on individuals who initially tested negative, and prisoners are getting daily temperature checks, screening for symptoms, and pulse oxygen level testing.

In the early stages of the pandemic, state correctional officials identified 148 cases, mostly at Vaughn prison. By late May, the state declared all prisons were COVID-19 free, but then the Sussex outbreak struck on July 1.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal