Atlanta woman’s death raises more questions about COVID-19 risk in prisons

Robin Grubbs asked to be moved as epidemic spread across inmate population - instead she is one of its victims

Robin N. Grubbs (Credit: Robin N. Grubbs)

An employee who worked as a case manager at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary has died after testing positive for coronavirus despite her repeated requests that she be moved.

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Robin N. Grubbs tested positive for the coronavirus and died on April 14. She was 39. Prior to her passing, she was working in a unit where those with COVID-19 were being quarantined. According to her father, Gary Grubbs, her pleas to be transferred out of Unit B-3 were ignored as the virus continued to spread.

“She wanted to be moved. She asked to be moved,” Gary told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an article published Monday. “I don’t know why they didn’t listen to her.”

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Robin N. Grubbs (Credit: Robin N. Grubbs)

A month before her death, Robin had been promoted to another position but she was not moved to another unit. Gary last saw his daughter two days before she died after he and his wife brought her a care package which she shared to social media.

“When your parents meet you halfway to bring you a Corona Care Package. Airhugs because Corona is everywhere at this point and I don’t wanna expose my ❤️’s, especially with me going to work “essential staff” ?. How did a girl like me get so lucky, blessed and highly favored. Da ?’s,” she wrote on April 10.

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Gary said that Robin seemed “fine” during the visit and during a call with him the next day.

“Still seemed okay,” her father said.

The grieving father said he was determined to learn why his daughter was still in her old position at the time of her death. He also wants to know why she was not given any personal protection equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks and gloves to do her work.

“I’m trying to find out the answers,” he said.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons acknowledged that Robin tested positive for the deadly contagion but BOP spokesman Scott Taylor maintained “there is no information or evidence relating to a cause of death.” The bureau also added that she was “successfully screened prior to entry and was asymptomatic.”

However, a federal lawsuit filed by an inmate is challenging the claims that employees and the incarcerated are being kept safe and healthy during the global pandemic. Michael Fiorito, convicted in Minnesota of mail fraud, said Robin informed him that she was not given any PPE.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that Robin asked to be removed from Unit B-3.  Fiorito, 52,  is suing to be approved for home confinement as he suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and lupus which he takes medication for.

“I meet all the criteria to be released,” he said.

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The AJC was not given exact figures on inmates who may be infected but learned that several inmates eligible for release have not been tested. Of prisoners that the BOP hast tested over 70% were positive.

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