Yuma prison warden dies from COVID-19; facility fighting virus outbreak

Edwin Jensen (Arizona Dept. of Corrections)

The warden of an Arizona state prison that has seen a major COVID-19 outbreak has died after being hospitalized over the weekend, the state Department of Corrections said.

Edwin Jensen was a warden at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Yuma, which houses more than 4,400 incarcerated people near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Department spokesperson Bill Lamoreaux said "we will not be issuing a statement at this time, out of respect for his family and the ADCRR who continue to grieve."

Yuma County sheriff’s Lt. Sam Pavlak said Jensen was hospitalized at Yuma Regional Medical Center over the weekend.

The county medical examiner’s office confirmed Jensen’s death but said it would not be determining the cause of death or making a report due to federal privacy rules.

Arizona Corrections Association President Clinton Roberts said Jensen was an open-minded colleague who was able to help solve staff issues and called his passing "a great loss."

The prison is currently in the midst of the largest COVID-19 outbreak within the state’s prison system, with more than 600 inmates testing positive for the virus last week, officials said.

More than 1,500 employees have also self-reported contracting the virus since the pandemic began in March and most of the employees at the Yuma prison have said they believe most of the staff had been infected.

No official numbers are publicly available.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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