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Review Ohio prison system’s COVID plans

When COVID-19 invaded Ohio about four months ago, virtually no one was ready for it. Had we known then what we know now, lives could have been saved.

Our ability to combat the coronavirus has improved dramatically. But in one of the most at-risk populations in Ohio — state prisons — accusations are being made that officials are not doing all they could to guard against the disease.

A union representing many state corrections personnel is demanding improved response by state officials. Their chief complaint seems to be lack of effective personal protective equipment such as N-95 face masks.

As of last week at Trumbull Correctional Institute, the state prison located in Leavittsburg, 54 inmates were testing positive for the virus, a sizable increase over the 17 who tested positive June 17. TCI’s 54 inmates testing positive is the highest number in all of the state’s 28 prisons. The next-highest number is in the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, which has 26.

In fact, TCI has more than a third of the current virus cases in the state’s prison system — 54 of 141.

Already throughout the state prison system, five corrections personnel have succumbed to COVID-19. Thankfully, none have been at the local state prison.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents Ohio prison employees, last week issued a news release stating that the lives of prison inmates and staff are at an “unacceptable level of risk. The news release focused on employees not all being provided with N-95 masks.

“These workers do not know who is positive in these facilities and who is not,” said Anthony Caldwell, director of public affairs for SEIU District 1199.

State officials should be doing all they can to safeguard both prison employees and inmates. As we have pointed out previously, their own well-being is important — but widespread infection at such a facility can be transmitted quickly to people in the surrounding area.

Gov. Mike DeWine should order a review of COVID-19 safeguards at state prisons. If more protective equipment is needed, the state must provide it.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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