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Ohio correctional officer dies from coronavirus; 19 prisoners and 53 staff test positive

Jake Zuckerman, Ohio Capital Journal

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Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday a correctional officer died of COVID-19 as more employees and inmates test positive for the disease.

John Dawson, 55, an officer at Marion Correctional Institution since 1996, died due to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. DeWine said Dawson worked at the control center handing out equipment to staff and had “underlying health conditions.”

Meanwhile, officials placed two more prisons under quarantine, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. Seven prison facilities total are now under quarantine, housing more than 10,500 inmates.

Nineteen prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Nearly 50 more are in isolation.

Fifty-three staff workers have tested positive for the disease as well.

State data shows Marion and Pickaway correctional institutions are the two hardest hit.

In Marion, which houses about 2,500 inmates, 34 staff members have tested positive, as have 9 inmates. Another 11 are in isolation, meaning DRC believes them to be sick.

In Pickaway, which houses about 2,000 inmates, seven prison employees have tested positive. Among inmates, nine have tested positive and 32 are in isolation.

An ODRC spokeswoman did not respond to specific questions Wednesday evening. A DeWine spokesman could not be reached for information on the two prisons.

One inmate has taken to the Ohio Supreme Court seeking release from prison given the likelihood of an outbreak. The ACLU of Ohio filed a brief in support of the inmate and has called for the release of thousands of prisoners.

union representing prison workers has criticized DeWine for not providing enough protective equipment for prison workers.

Amid the coronavirus emergency, DeWine has recommended the release of more than 200 of Ohio’s 49,000 prisoners.

Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.

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