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Coronavirus In Ohio: National Guard Sent To Elkton Federal Prison For Medical Mission

Federal Correctional Institution Elkton in Lisbon, Ohio.
Federal Bureau of Prisons
The Federal Correctional Institution Elkton in Lisbon, Ohio.

Three inmates recently died from coronavirus inside the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in Columbiana County. But the spread of the disease inside the prison, which is run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, has Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine concerned.

DeWine will be sending 26 Ohio National Guardsmen and women to work in the medical field to the facility for seven to 10 days. The National Guard found that the prison's medical facility was understaffed.

"This is a medical mission only,” DeWine says. “The guard members will not be armed. They will not be providing security.  They will be there to assist with non-COVID cases as well as those who are showing symptoms of this highly contagious deadly disease."

Seven other inmates at Elkton have tested positive for COVID 19.

“These soldiers who all work in the medical field will have N-95 respirator masks for protection while they work to augment the current prison medical staff," DeWine says. "They will treat those they can while triaging others with serious symptoms for hospital care.”

Elsewhere in Ohio prisons, five prisoners at both the Pickaway Correctional Institution and Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive for coronavirus.

DeWine said Monday there are also 27 staff members from four different facilities with the virus, with most cases coming out of Marion.

DeWine says his administration is looking into the possible recommended release of more categories of inmates. He says they're evaluating inmates who are charged with non-violent crimes and are scheduled to be released soon.

"Freeing that space will enable the director and her wardens to better deal with the situations," DeWine says.

He has already suggested the release of 38 inmates who are pregnant, recently had a baby, or over the age of 60. Those recommendations are sent to county judges who can then decide to hold hearings for possible release.

The state has ordered its prisons to test inmates when they show symptoms, screen anyone entering the facilities, and to prohibit visitations.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.