A federal prison worker who died of COVID-19 complications, but only tested positive for the disease after her death, was exposed to unsafe conditions in her work environment, according to her co-workers.
Robin Grubbs, 39, a case manager at United States Penitentiary in Atlanta was found dead in her home last week and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons confirmed she was the first staff death potentially linked to coronavirus, according to CBS News.
Four corrections officers at USP said facility employees do not have sufficient access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they have been unclear about how many inmates and staff have been infected.
"Already, it's a stressful job. Already, you don't ever know what you're walking into, but to add this on, this pandemic, where it could jump on you and just take your life away like that, it's mind-boggling. It's terrifying," said one corrections officer described as a “close friend” of Grubbs.
Grubbs job was as a case worker but she was recently promoted to a position in which she was to help released inmates transition back into society. She worked in an area called “Baker 3,” CBS News reported, which was an area that had been empty, but converted into a space to house inmates that had contracted COVID-19. She had complained about not being given the right equipment and was trying to get out of the unit.
"She was like, 'Girl. Oh my God, they won't let me go for whatever reason,” Grubbs’ friend Taneka Miller said she told her. “I'm so ready to go. I'm so ready to go."
Another co-worker, Jacquetta Rosemond, said Grubbs should have been moved. Inmates on the first two floors of the unit would have been the ones she worked with, not the ones in Baker 3.
"She didn't even get to go to her new job," she said. "There was really no reason for her to stay on that unit. Those particular inmates in that unit were not on her caseload."
Grubbs had reportedly tried to buy surgical masks for herself, but none were available until the prison started providing them to employees. Co-workers who had seen her said they saw her without a surgical or N95 mask, which employees would have been given access to, but had to have fit-tested first.
Rosemond and Miller said employees could not get access to gloves, although many were responsible for inmate pat-downs. More PPE was eventually distributed but some employees felt it did not come soon enough.
"The communication is horrible. It's late, it's last minute, and it's not full information," Miller said. "It's like they're sitting on the information."
Although the Bureau of Prisons officials did confirm Grubbs death, CBS News reported, they did not say the cause. No autopsy has yet been completed.
Credit: Aitor Diago