CONNEAUT — State Representative John Patterson visited Lake Erie Correctional Institution on Friday morning, along with representatives of the Conneaut Health Department and University Hospitals.
Patterson said prison staff are taking every possible step to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and protect the inmates.
Patterson visited the prison with Nichele Blood, health commissioner with the Conneaut Health Department, and Denise DiDonato, director of business development with University Hospitals Conneaut and Geneva.
Inmates are following social distancing and wearing masks, Patterson said. When eating or drinking, inmates were careful to stay away from people while their masks were off, he said.
Bunk beds have also been spread further apart, and inmates on the same bunk beds are sleeping with their heads at opposite ends of the bed, to increase the distance between them, Patterson said.
“We want our community to know that the correctional facility here in Conneaut is doing everything humanly possible that they can be doing in order to contain the outbreak,” Blood said.
Staff members are wearing all the necessary personal protective equipment, Blood said.
Inmates who have contracted COVID-19 have been treated well, Blood said.
There has been one inmate death at Lake Erie Correctional Institution, according to information released on Friday by the Ohio Department of Health. Thirteen inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, and five more were awaiting test results, according to ODH. Seventeen inmates are in isolation.
Thirteen staff members had tested positive as of Friday.
Surfaces are being sanitized regularly. Food trays are being disinfected before and after serving someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, Blood said.
“They are doing what they need to be doing,” she said.
Inmates are eating with in the same groups that they bunk with, so that there isn’t any cross-contamination between groups of inmates, Patterson said. Additionally, the dining areas are being cleaned after every group of inmates eats.
The prison’s nursing staff has been in contact with staff at UH Conneaut and the Conneaut Health Department, Patterson said.
“They are doing all they can, and they were very open to us, and any questions that we might have had,” Patterson said.
Some Ohio prisons have been hit hard by COVID-19. The entire inmate populations of Marion and Pickaway correctional institutions were tested, and more than 1,000 inmates tested positive in both prisons.
Early in the outbreak, Gov. Mike DeWine restricted who could enter prisons to prevent COVID-19 from spreading inside the facility. In-person visitation of inmates was temporarily halted, and only people who are necessary for the operation of prisons are allowed inside, according to the order.