Woman in Prison Dies of Coronavirus After Giving Birth on Ventilator

Andrea Circle Bear underwent an emergency C-section while on a ventilator earlier this month.
Andrea Circle Bear underwent an emergency C-section while on a ventilator earlier this month. (Getty)

A 30-year-old who gave birth earlier this month while on a ventilator may have become the first woman to die of coronavirus while in federal prison’s custody Tuesday. Andrea Circle Bear, of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, was serving a 26-month sentence on drug charges at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas at the time of her death.

Circle Bear had “a pre-existing medical condition which the CDC lists as a risk factor” and had been battling the coronavirus for nearly a month, according to statement by the Bureau of Prisons.

She was brought a local hospital for “potential concerns regarding her pregnancy” March 28, about a week after she was transported from Winner City Jail in South Dakota to Federal Medical Center Carswell, a women’s federal prison that is equipped to provide medical care, according to the Bureau of Prisons. She had a high fever and signs of the coronavirus, NBC Dallas Fort Worth reported.

Circle Bear was discharged that same day and brought back to the prison, but developed “fever, dry cough and other symptoms,” as diagnosed by the prison’s medical care staff. She was taken back to the hospital just three days after her discharge and placed on a ventilator, the Bureau of Prisons said.

She underwent an emergency C-section the following day and gave birth to a premature baby girl, and was confirmed to have COVID-19 later that week. Circle Bear continued to fight the virus for the next four weeks before she died of complications April 28.

Her newborn daughter went home with her family in South Dakota, according to the Washington Post.

Circle Bear pleaded guilty for “Maintaining a Drug Involved Premises” and was sentenced on January 14. Before she was transported to the Texas federal prison, she had been serving her sentence at the Winner City Jail in Winner, South Dakota.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation has been largely untouched by the coronavirus epidemic, according to the Washington Post. Out of an abundance of caution and with fear a coronavirus outbreak could overwhelm the Indian Health Services hospital in Eagle Butte, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe erected roadblocks at entrances to its reservation to screen for people who may have the virus, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Out-of-state visitors are asked to prove they live on the reservation or are a tribal member if they wish to enter, and non-residents are temporarily banned from hunting or fishing on the reservation.

It was not immediately clear why Circle Bear was transported across state lines after the Bureau of Prisons announced in mid-March inmate transfers were to be suspended for 30 days with exception of medical or mental health treatment.

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