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caption: Corrections officer Berisford Anthony Morse, 65, died May 17, due to complications from Covid-19.
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Corrections officer Berisford Anthony Morse, 65, died May 17, due to complications from Covid-19.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Corrections

Monroe corrections officer dies of Covid-19, number of infections continues to climb

The Washington State Department of Corrections announced on Monday that a Monroe prison guard died of Covid-19 on Sunday.

His death is being classified as having happened in the line of duty.

Berisford Anthony Morse, 65, worked at the Monroe Correctional Facility in the minimum security unit, where at least 14 inmates have tested positive for Covid-19. Morse worked for the department for more than 16 years.

“Through his work in corrections, he put his life on the line to protect the public and keep our communities safe,” said Michelle Woodrow, President and Executive Director of Teamsters 117, a union representing law enforcement and corrections officers across Washington.

“No one deserves to die on the job, but when a workplace death is tied to public service, it is especially painful and worthy of recognition.”

Woodrow said Morse was a hero and “we will never forget his service and sacrifice.”

18 inmates and 9 staff at the Monroe prison have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Department of Corrections' website.

On April 12, Morse was found to have had contact with a Covid-19 positive inmate within the minimum security unit. Morse last worked at the Monroe prison on April 24. That same day, he reached out to the shift commander and reported that he had symptoms of Covid-19. Three days later, Morse tested positive.

People who were determined to be close contacts of Morse, through contact tracing, were notified that they were exposed to the disease.

The spread of the coronavirus among inmates and guards prompted a protest at Monroe prison on April 8. Inmates told KUOW they felt like adequate social distancing wasn't happening and masks weren't being universally worn to keep them safe from the deadly virus.

Some of the inmates have underlying health conditions. Other inmates are older, rendering them more vulnerable to the virus considering its more deadly impact on people age 65 and older.