Federal inmate with coronavirus dies after giving birth on ventilator

A federal inmate who contracted COVID-19 died at a Texas hospital weeks after giving birth by cesarean section while on a ventilator, prison officials said.

Andrea Circle Bear, a 30-year-old inmate at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, died Tuesday, more than three weeks after she gave birth to a child on April 1, the Bureau of Prisons announced.

Circle Bear, who was serving a 26-month sentence for a drug-related charge, was transported to a local hospital “due to potential concerns” regarding her pregnancy on March 28, federal prison officials said.

She was discharged the same day after being evaluated by hospital staffers. Three days later, prison officials sent Circle Bear back to the facility to evaluate her fever, dry cough and other symptoms, officials said.

Circle Bear was then put on a ventilator at the hospital, where she gave birth by cesarean section the following day. She tested positive for the coronavirus three days later, officials said.

The Justice Action Network, a Washington-based criminal justice watchdog group, accused the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons of having “direct responsibility” for Circle Bear’s death.

“Attorney General Barr and Director [Michael] Carvajal must explain themselves and the cruelty and systematic failures up and down the chain of command that led to a young mother-to-be’s preventable death,” the group’s president and executive director, Holly Harris, said in a joint statement with former US Attorney Brett Tolman. “In what world should a pregnant woman be incarcerated, especially in the middle of a virus outbreak, for a rarely-prosecuted technical violation?”

Circle Bear, a South Dakota native also known as Andrea High Bear, was sentenced in January for maintaining a place for the purpose of distributing meth on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, Department of Justice officials announced.

She had a pre-existing medical condition that put her at a higher risk factor for developing more severe COVID-19 symptoms, according to the Bureau of Prisons. The agency cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but did not elaborate on the woman’s condition.

At least 30 federal inmates have died from COVID-19, Bureau of Prison data shows.

Circle Bear is the first female federal inmate to die from the disease, BOP officials said.

“As for her child, we can share the child survived, however, out of respect for the family and for privacy reasons, we will not provide further information,” the rep said.


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