A 70-year-old inmate died of COVID-19 Saturday morning after his recent diagnosis, becoming Minnesota's ninth inmate to die of the virus.

The man was exposed to the novel coronavirus while incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault and died at a nearby hospital. The state's Department of Corrections (DOC) has not yet released his name.

It's the fifth COVID-19 death at Faribault, the state's largest prison with an inmate capacity of 2,000.

There are now 272 COVID-positive inmates at MCF-Faribault and 43 COVID-positive staff.

"This man's death is another sad reminder of the risks and challenges of preventing and managing virus infection and spread in a correctional setting," DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a news release. "Even as we see the release of new vaccines, we cannot let down our guard. We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of this man, and we remain committed to doing all we can to prevent the spread of COVID in our facilities."

Like nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, prisons are congregate-living environments. Despite most prisons implementing new safety measures aimed at reducing the virus' spread — such as prohibiting outside visitors, limiting inmates' movements and suspending educational programs — the coronavirus has found its way into the state's incarceration facilities.

It's unclear where in the vaccine line that inmates will be placed, but the Associated Press, citing an internal document from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, reported last month that wardens and other prison staff may be in the early wave of recipients.

The virus has been particularly rampant at the prison in Stillwater, where about 75% of the overall population has tested positive, as well as hundreds of staff members.

Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767