SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A 55-year-old San Quentin State Prison guard has become the first employee at that facility to die amid a COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak at the prison, state officials said.

Sgt. Gilbert Polanco died Sunday morning, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Sunday in a statement. Polanco had been in a San Jose hospital for more than a month.

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Sgt. Gilbert Polanco

Sgt. Gilbert Polanco. (Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation Photo)

“Sgt. Gilbert Polanco is an example of the best of CDCR and his passing deeply saddens us all. His dedication to public service will not be forgotten,” CDCR secretary Ralph Diaz said Sunday in a statement.

“Our hearts are broken as we awaken to the news of the passing of our beloved Sergeant, colleague, and friend,” said acting San Quentin warden Ron Broomfield. “Sgt. Gilbert Polanco demonstrated unwavering commitment and bravery as a peace officer working the frontline every day during this devastating pandemic. His memory is carried on in the hearts of all the men and women who continue to battle this deadly virus at San Quentin. We mourn together with his family and pray for their peace and comfort in the midst of their immeasurable loss.”

As of Friday, 2,226 San Quentin inmates had tested positive for COVID-19. Polanco’s death was the first employee there to die; later Sunday, CDCR officials said that 58-year-old Pedro Arias, on San Quentin’s death row since 1990, died Sunday at an outside hospital from what appears to be complications related to the COVID-19 coronavirus. He was the 25th San Quentin prisoner to die from the coronavirus.

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Prisons around the country have struggled to keep the virus from spreading among staff and inmates. At San Quentin, more than 2,000 inmates and 261 staff members have been infected.

Sgt. Polanco was infected with the coronavirus at San Quentin and began showing symptoms in June. His wife and daughter also became infected, according to the San Jose Mercury News. His condition rapidly worsened to the point that he was placed on a ventilator at Kaiser San Jose, where he succumbed this weekend.

More than 1,000 prison employees statewide are confirmed cases, according to the CDCR.

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