Lawyers for COVID-19 infected inmates, families of prisoners who have died seek class-action status

A new legal filing asks a federal judge to grant class-action status to prisoners who were diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as the estates of prisoners who died after contracting the illness.

The latest request was submitted Monday in an ongoing lawsuit that alleges the Oregon Department of Corrections failed to protect incarcerated people from the virus that has swept through the prison system.

According to the latest figures from the state, 3,607 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 and 42 have died.

Corrections officials, the U.S. District Court filing claims, have “willfully and wantonly ignored the public health threat caused by this global pandemic and, as a result, class members have been harmed, and lives have been lost.”

Lawyers ask the court to designate three classes: one for people who were diagnosed with the virus, another for people who were not offered vaccines by Jan. 1 and a wrongful death class made up of the estates of people who had COVID-19 and died while in prison.

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