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1st Wash. corrections officer dies from COVID-19

Berisford Anthony Morse, 65, worked at the Monroe Correctional Complex’s minimum security unit


Berisford Anthony Morse died Sunday from complications of COVID-19.

Photo/Washington Department of Corrections

By Joseph O’Sullivan
The Seattle Times

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Corrections officials Monday evening announced that a correctional officer has died of the new coronavirus.

Berisford Anthony Morse, 65, died on Sunday from complications due to COVID-19, according to the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC). His death, the first from the illness involving a state correctional officer, is being honored as a line-of-duty fatality.

Morse, who joined DOC in 2003, worked at the Monroe Correctional Complex’s minimum security unit, where 14 inmates have tested positive for the virus.

“It is a tragedy to lose a member of our public safety community and correctional family,” Secretary of Corrections Stephen Sinclair said in a statement, adding later: “Our hearts go out to Officer Morse’s grieving family and the sacrifice they have made.”

Morse last worked at the prison on April 24, and went home after reporting symptoms to his shift commander, according to the statement. Corrections officials learned on April 27 that he tested positive for the virus.

Earlier in April, Morse had been identified in contact tracing as having interacted with an inmate in the minimum security unit who had COVID-19, according to the statement.

During the pandemic, Monroe Correctional Complex has been an epicenter of fear within Washington’s prison system for inmates and families worried about the spread of the virus in confined spaces.

As of Monday, nine staffers and 18 inmates at Monroe Correctional Complex had tested positive for COVID-19, according to DOC.


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