COVID-19 has killed more than 375,000 Americans—but it may have saved the lives of two federal inmates. A federal judge has halted the executions of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs because they have tested positive for the virus, the Hill reports. In what would have been the final executions of President Trump's time in office, Johnson was scheduled to die Thursday and Higgs was to be executed Friday. Johnson was convicted of seven gang-related murders in Virginia and Higgs was convicted of ordering the killings of three Maryland women. Late Monday, another judge halted the Tuesday execution of Lisa Montgomery, who would have been the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years.
President-elect Joe Biden opposes the federal death penalty, meaning the inmates are unlikely to be executed any time soon unless the rulings are overturned before he takes office next week, the AP reports. Higgs and Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 last month. "The court is deeply concerned that the government intends to execute two prisoners who are suffering from COVID-19 infection, particularly given that the disease impacts individuals in drastically different ways and can have particularly devastating long-term effects, even for those with mild symptoms," Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in her ruling Tuesday, warning that witnesses and prison staff could be exposed to the virus. "The public interest is not served by executing individuals in this manner," she wrote. (Read more execution stories.)