An inmate in the Jefferson County Jail who had self-reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms has died after being found unresponsive in his cell.
UPDATE: The county coroner has reported that Abeyta did not test positive for COVID-19
According to a press release from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, deputies found 50-year-old inmate Paul George Abeyta unresponsive in his cell during a routine check at 5:15 a.m. Friday morning. Lifesaving procedures were undertaken and continued until just after 6 a.m., when Abeyta was pronounced dead the release said.
The sheriff's office reports Abeyta was housed alone in a medical unit of the jail because of drug withdrawal protocol and reported COVID-19-related symptoms.
Abeyta was arrested by Lakewood police on April 27. During the booking process, he indicated he had been a daily heroin user for the past five years. He also reported he was suffering from symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath that had begun earlier that day.
Abeyta did not have a fever upon arrival nor during any subsequent temperature check, but he was isolated from other inmates due to his reported symptoms. According to the Sheriff's Office, Abeyta was routinely checked on by deputies in accordance with withdrawal protocol.
Abeyta was arrested on more than 10 felony or misdemeanor charges, including a failure to appear for possession of a controlled substance charge associated with a $100,000 bond amount.
The release states that the Jefferson County Coroner's Office will determine the cause of Abeyta's death.
The Sheriff's Department had been releasing inmates earlier than scheduled since mid March, in an effort to avoid overcrowding of the facility. The seventh floor of the jail, which had been closed due to budget cutbacks, has been used as an isolation wing for inmates with symptoms or possible exposure to COVID-19 according to the department communications team.
As of April 16, antibody testing of jail staff found at least a dozen who tested positive, which indicate they either currently have the virus or have had it in the recent past.
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