National Guard to Help at Federal Prison in Columbiana as Inmate Cases Rise

Apr 6, 2020

Nearly 40 individuals in Ohio's prison system have tested positive for COVID-19.

Ten of them are inmates — five at Marion Correctional Institution and five at Pickaway Correctional Institution — and 27 are employees. Most of the employees are from Marion.

Gov. Mike DeWine said the state's only federal prison, Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in Columbiana County, has seven inmates with COVID-19. Three have died. 

"Elkton's medical staffing is only at 50% of what it should be," DeWine said. 

He's sending up to 26 members of the National Guard to Elkton for the next seven to 10 days. They'll help treat patients and bring equipment the staff needs.

DeWine has also made a formal request to prevent Elkton from taking in any additional inmates to prevent the spread of the disease. 

"I do feel that the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Prisons should stop any intake going into that prison for any reason," DeWine said. "It's certainly not a time to introduce any new prisoners to that population."

The state also plans to release some prisoners who are nonviolent offenders and may be close to their release date. 

As of Monday, there are 4,450 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio and 142 deaths. More than 1,200 are hospitalized and 8% of those patients have been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), reminded Ohioans it's likely there are more cases throughout the state, but testing has been limited to health care workers and high-risk populations. 

Acton believes nearly 80% of the individuals who contract the disease are at home and don't need to be hospitalized. She hopes to soon test asymptomatic or mildly-ill individuals through random sampling in the state to get a better idea of where the disease is spreading. 

As more cases are confirmed, some trends are becoming clearer. 

"Deaths are definitely leaning more toward males," Acton said. There's also new information relating to deaths by race and ethnicity that will be available on the ODH website. For example: 51% are white, 18% are black and 2% are Asian/Pacific Islander. 

Acton said she expects a surge in cases will happen in late April to mid-May. Ohio could see up to 10,000 cases a day. 

To help with hospital capacity, state and health officials have identified six locations that will offer additional capacity to care for patients who are less acutely ill. They include:  

  • SeaGate Convention Centre in Toledo
  • Case Western Reserve University's Health Education Center
  • Dayton Convention Center
  • Covelli Centre in Youngstown
  • Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati
  • Greater Columbus Convention Center

Acton and DeWine both stressed Ohioans need to keep social distancing. They reminded residents that the extended stay-at-home order goes into effect Monday night until May 1. One of the changes includes a requirement that people returning to Ohio from a different state need to voluntarily quarantine for 14 days. 

Jack Marchbanks, the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), said this rule doesn't apply to truckers who are bringing essential resources from state to state. 

Marchbanks said ODOT is working with mobile food vendors to provide truckers with hot meals at rest stops. ODOT is also working to keep those rest stops along interstates open and clean. 

Acton asked all residents to continue using precautions to help each other prevent the spread of COVID-19 because it could help control the upcoming surge. 

"This is going to be a hard week and we have a few hard weeks ahead," Acton said. "We cannot let up. The second we let up, it unravels."