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Two California death row inmates die from coronavirus complications

The deaths of Scott Thomas Erskine and Manuel Machado Alvarez came as more than 53,000 new cases across the U.S. were reported Friday.
Image: Coronavirus Cases Surge To Over A Thousand At San Quentin Prison
A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officer wears a protective mask on June 29 at the front gate of San Quentin State Prison. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Two California death row inmates, including one convicted of killing two children, have died from what appears to be complications of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, state officials said.

Scott Thomas Erskine, who was sentenced to death for killing two boys, ages 13 and 9, in San Diego in 1993, and Manuel Machado Alvarez, who raped a woman and killed a man he tried to rob in 1987, died Friday, the state corrections department said.

Erskine, 57, had been on death row since 2004 and Alvarez, 59, since 1989.

When Erskine was sentenced to death for the killings in 2004, he was already serving a 70-year sentence for rape and other counts that was handed down in 1994.

Erskine and Alvarez died at outside hospitals, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

Their deaths came on a day in which there were more than 53,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported across the United States, according to NBC News counts.

There are 722 people on California’s death row, the corrections department said. But an inmate has not been executed in California since 2006, and in March 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced a moratorium on executions. Prosecutors are still free to seek it.

An increase in coronavirus cases across a number of states has caused at least 19 states to either roll back or pause reopening plans.

California has seen an increase in cases, and on Wednesday, Newsom ordered 19 counties, including Los Angeles and Santa Clara in Silicon Valley, to shutter indoor operations at restaurants, museums, bars and other venues.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says on its website that there have been more than 5,000 patients confirmed to have COVID-19, and of those a little more than 2,600 are active cases of people in custody. There have been 24 deaths.

Statewide, more than 248,200 cases have been confirmed, and more than 6,263 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Health officials have warned Californians not to gather with people outside of their households this July 4 weekend, to wear face masks when in public and to keep their distance from others as ways to slow the spread of the virus.