- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - A 79-year-old man with lung cancer became the second inmate in Arizona’s prisons to die from the coronavirus.

The prisoner known as Sittingdown, who didn’t have a first name and also was known as Robert E. Proell, died Friday of COVID-19 and lung cancer, according to André Davis, investigations supervisor at Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office, on Tuesday.

Sittingdown, who had been in prison for the last 35 years for four convictions from Mohave County for sexual conduct with a minor, was housed at the prison in Florence. Sittingdown was taken to a hospital in Florence on April 18 and died there six days later, according to records.

The Florence prison has the most reported COVID-19 cases and accounts for 34 of the 49 confirmed cases in state prisons.

The first inmate to die from the coronavirus was 64-year-old Joseph Assyd, who died two weeks ago at a hospital in Tucson and was serving a life sentence for convictions for murder and kidnapping from Maricopa County.

Even after a medical examiner confirmed with The Associated Press that Assyd had died from COVID-19, corrections officials said on Monday that they hadn’t received verification of his cause of death and hadn’t yet had a COVID-19 death among inmates that was confirmed by county medical examiners.

Similarly, the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said in a statement Tuesday that it hasn’t received verification on the cause of Sittingdown’s death. Last week, the agency declined to say whether any inmates had died from COVID-19.

Health officials, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the state counted 18 new coronavirus deaths and a continued surge of new cases.

The new tally came a day after state officials reported the first day with no deaths since March. Arizona has 6,948 confirmed cases after adding 232 on Tuesday. There have been 293 deaths.

The state Department of Health Services is tracking confirmed cases, but a lack of testing and the fact that many people have few or no symptoms means the number of cases is likely much higher. The state plans a “testing blitz” over the coming three Saturdays where it hopes to test 10,000 to 20,000 people each day.

Last week saw a major surge of deaths, with three days of 20 or more.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-home order is set to expire Thursday night, and he is considering whether to extend it, modify it or let it end.

Meanwhile, the Arizona agency that administers unemployment insurance benefits reported late Monday that it received more than 52,000 new claims last week. That brings the six-week total of people who lost jobs since the pandemic hit the state to more than 470,000 people.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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