With Ohio's only federal prison having been hit hard by the coronavirus (COVID-19), Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has authorized the state's National Guard to help.
As of Monday, FCI Elkton in Columbiana County has had seven inmates test positive for the coronavirus, with several more showing symptoms and three having died. According to DeWine, Elkton’s medical staffing is currently at 50 percent and for every one federal inmate at the hospital, the federal prison needs two federal guards to stand watch.
As a resulted, DeWine has enlisted in the Ohio National Guard for what he described as a mission limited in both size and scope. The plan is for the Guard to be in the hospital for 7-10 days until more federal assistance arrives.
DeWine said that while an advanced team is currently in the prison, the plan calls for 26 guardsmen and women to help in the Elkton infirmary. The guard members will be wearing N95 respirator masks and will not be armed for what DeWine described as a "medical mission only."
While some family members of inmates in the prison have called for their release, DeWine stressed that it's the federal government and not the state that has the power to do so. He did, however, plead with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to stop prisoner intake at Elkton.
As of Monday, Ohio has had 4,450 confirmed coronavirus cases, 1,214 of which have resulted in hospitalization, 371 ICU admissions and 142 deaths. Dating back to the discovery of the state's first positive coronavirus case on March 9, DeWine has taken several measures to encourage physical distancing, including a stay-at-home order that is currently in place until at least May 1.