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Coronavirus In Ohio: First State Prison Officer Dies From COVID-19

Marion Correctional Institution
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections
An officer at Marion Correctional Institution died of COVID-19 on April 8, 2020.

An officer at Marion Correctional Institution has died from COVID-19, the first fatality within Ohio's prison system.

At his daily press conference, Gov. Mike DeWine says 55-year-old John Dawson, from Mansfield, died Wednesday after testing positive for the coronavirus on March 30. DeWine said the officer, who was the second officer in the Marion facility to test positive, had an underlying health condition.

So far, DeWine says 48 Ohio prison staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 17 inmates, at seven prisons. He says “aggressive” testing is happening in the prisons.

Compared to other places, DeWine says Ohio is doing well in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

“Mr. Dawson’s death reminds us that, as we celebrate the fact that Ohio is doing comparatively well, we are still seeing a large number of deaths,” DeWine said. “People are dying every single day.”

As of Wednesday morning, there have been 193 deaths due to COVID-19 in Ohio, reported Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. And those numbers are predicted to rise – the state now expects to see a peak in mid-to-late April.

So far, there have been 5,148 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, Acton said, along with 1,495 hospitalizations and 472 ICU admissions.

“More people went to the hospital. More people died than the day before,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. “And those aren’t models. Those are real people. Those are people with families, people with loved ones. And we deeply, deeply care about what happens to them — and that we know we are in a battle that has to be won.”

DeWine made a public plea to Ohio’s hospitals, asking them to save their N-95 protective masks so they can be decontaminated, rather than discarding them.

“Every mask is precious,” DeWine said. “You’re denying somebody else a mask."

The governor again touted machines developed by Columbus-based Battelle that can clean the protective devices so they can be reused. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given Battelle emergency authorization to use the new technology during this crisis.

DeWine also announced a major gift of protective supplies: 100,000 N-95 masks from the Apple computer company. DeWine said he thanked Apple CEO Tim Cook personally on the phone last night, while walking on his farm in Greene County.

The governor said the state is also looking to get the equipment it needs by other means, including trying to get a shipment in from China.

Unemployment And Child Care

Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, joined the press conference on Wednesday. Hall said the state already paid out $124 million in COVID-related unemployment claims to about 195,000 Ohioans.

She says the department’s primary goal right now is staffing up to meet the unprecedented surge in claims they are receiving. Ohio's unemployment call center is now open seven days a week. By the end of this week, she says ODJFS will have 1,000 people taking calls.

She also says the department is responding in other ways. Additional SNAP food assistance benefits are being provided, and the pandemic childcare program for essential workers has already enrolled nearly 27,000 children.

Jason Saul is a public radio journalist and producer who moved to the Miami Valley to help build a new culture of nonprofit journalism here in Southwest Ohio.