SPINDALE — An inmate at the Rutherford Correctional Center died Monday from COVID-19, marking the first virus-related fatality at the prison in Spindale.

Prison officials said the offender, who suffered from pre-existing medical conditions, died the same day he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We continue to work diligently to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons because the health and safety of the staff and the offender population continues to be our top priority,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons.

The offender was hospitalized Monday when he tested positive for COVID-19. His condition worsened, and he died later the same day.

The offender was a male in his early-60s who had underlying health conditions. Given his family’s right to privacy and the confidentiality of prison offender records, the Department of Public Safety declined to identify the inmate.

Prison leadership claims to have taken taken more than four dozen actions throughout the North Carolina prison system to try to prevent transmission of the virus.

Statewide, the current offender population of approximately 30,000 has been tested for COVID-19 at least once. Many have been tested twice or more. Of note, the state prison system tests 1-4% of its population every day. So far, more than 37,500 individual offenders have been tested for the virus since the pandemic began, and conducted more than 86,000 separate COVID-19 tests on offenders. Despite this several-fold increase in testing per population, the state prisons currently have a daily percent positive rate of 6-9%.