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First Conn. correctional officer dies of COVID-19

Correction Officer Quentin Foster had worked for the department for nine years and leaves behind five children

Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution

CO Quentin Foster was assigned to the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield, Connecticut.

Leon Nguyen

By Alex Wood
Journal Inquirer

ENFIELD, Conn. — For the first time, a Connecticut prison staff member has died of COVID-19, according to state correction Commissioner Angel Quiros.

In a memorandum Friday to all Department of Correction staff members, which was made public Monday, Quiros identified the deceased staff member as Correction Officer Quentin Foster, 45, who was assigned to the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution on the Enfield-Somers line.

“This is a message that I prayed I would never have to deliver,” Quiros wrote.

“I was devastated when I was informed of Officer Foster’s death,” he added later in the memo. “This is the realization of one of my worst fears, which we worked diligently to try to prevent.”

It isn’t entirely clear, however, whether Foster contracted COVID-19 on the job.

“We were informed that Officer Foster tested positive for COVID-19 upon return from traveling down south,” Karen Martucci, the department’s director of external affairs, wrote in an email.

Foster is, however, the first department staff member “to succumb to this terrible virus,” according to Quiros.

The commissioner said Foster had worked for the department for nine years and leaves five children.

“Officer Foster’s death is a painful reminder that we must keep our collective guards up and keep fighting to contain this persistent virus,” Quiros wrote. “I firmly believe the best way to keep COVID-19 at bay is to get vaccinated. As we wait on the finalization of the policy related to the vaccination mandate for DOC employees, I encourage those of you who have not yet been vaccinated, to do so as soon as possible.

“Ever-increasing evidence illustrates the vaccine helps save lives,” the commissioner continued. “There is a world of difference between a head cold and being placed on a ventilator.”

Online state records currently list 43 department staff members as “recovering from COVID-19,” while 48 inmates are listed as having symptoms of the disease and 22 inmates have tested positive without symptoms. Twenty inmates have died of COVID during the pandemic.

Connecticut had a total of 9,291 prison inmates Monday, according to online statistics.

Department spokesman Andrius Banevicius has said the department had a total of about 6,200 staff members in March 2020, with about 4,900 “custody staff,” who have direct contact with inmates.

(c)2021 Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.