State Department of Correction staff announced Sept.10 the agency’s first death of a correction officer from COVID-19.

Quentin Foster, 45, a 9-year employee of the agency, left behind five children, according to DOC Commissioner Angel Quiros.

“There is no other way to say it, I was devastated when I was informed of Officer Foster’s death,” Quiros said in a memo to staff. “This is the realization of one of my worst fears, which we worked diligently to try to prevent.”

Foster had tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a vacation in the south, DOC officials said. He was assigned to the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution at the time of his death, officials said.

Union officials who have been vocal in seeking protection for frontline staff from the virus offered a moment of silence for Foster before staging a press conference Tuesday highlighting staff shortages.

More than 1,400 DOC employees have tested positive for COVID-19 with 34 currently recovering from the virus. The agency announced last week that a 20th inmate died from COVID-19. A total of 4,767 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since March of 2020.

The agency listed on its website Wednesday that 49 inmates are symptomatic and 21 are asymptomatic. More than 4,300 inmates have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, officials said.

Foster’s death comes as the unions and the agency are working with Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration to craft a policy to vaccinate all state employees, including DOC frontline workers such as correction officers.

The agency working with Griffin Hospital has vaccinated 2,697 employees – a figure that hasn’t budged in months. Until Lamont’s order for the vaccinations goes into effect later this month, employees don’t have to give the DOC their vaccination status so the number may be higher, officials said. There are about 6,000 DOC employees.

“Officer Foster’s death is a painful reminder that we must keep our collective guards up and keep fighting to contain this persistent virus,” Quiros said in the memo. “I firmly believe the best way to keep Covid-19 at bay is to get vaccinated. As we wait on the finalization of the policy related to the vaccination mandate for DOC employees, I encourage those of you who have not yet been vaccinated, to do so as soon as possible.”

“Ever-increasing evidence illustrates the vaccine helps save lives,” Quiros added. “There is a world of difference between a head cold and being placed on a ventilator.”