Push for mass testing at Ohio prisons as COVID-19 continues to surge

Updated: May. 20, 2020 at 2:48 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - There has been no stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio’s prisons.

According to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, four staff members and 61 inmates have died due to the virus.

Now, the highly contagious virus is raging through the Belmont Correctional Institution, however, without mass testing, it’s unknown how many inmates and staff members are positive.

Ohio stopped mass testing at prisons after screenings at Marion and Pickaway in April revealed about 80% of the population was positive, including many that were asymptomatic.

Director Annette Chambers-Smith said since the spread was so vast, testing was no longer recommended.

Instead, a new testing policy was implemented, which includes testing people on the way into the system, then quarantining them for 14 days and not allowing them to leave reception for 45 day.

"We are testing when it is actionable, testing when it helps someone and when someone can be quarantined safely away,” Chambers-Smith said during a recent briefing.

Union leaders with the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has been pushing for mass testing, and now, Ohio Senate Minority leader Kenny Yuko is joining in.

“People are actually dying and they are dying in record numbers," said Yuko. “If we do the testing, maybe we can get the necessary help.”

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