Coronavirus: 38 state prison inmates up for early release

The DeWine administration is sending letters to local judges to consider early release for 38 state prisoners during the coronavirus outbreak, including 15 who are over age 60 and within 120 days of release and 23 women who are either pregnant or gave birth in prison.

The 38 are a small fraction of the 48,991 people incarcerated in Ohio’s 27 adult prisons.

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The ACLU of Ohio urged DeWine to consider releasing a wider range of inmates, including those who have health conditions, are over 60, have less than six months remaining on their sentences, are nonviolent offenders or serving time for drug possession.

Thirty inmates have been tested for COVID-19 — 29 came back negative, one is pending; an employee at Marion Correctional tested positive, resulting in a quarantine for all 2,537 inmates, according to state officials.

The Ohio Department of Health on Friday reported 3,312 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, including 895 hospitalizations and 91 deaths.

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Also, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered Hocking Hills State Park closed as of sunset Friday because the narrow trail system makes it too difficult for adequate social distancing.

The DeWine administration is relying on pandemic modeling from Ohio State University’s Infectious Disease Institute, a collaboration of 600 experts who focus on bacteria, viruses and fungi impact on the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment.

IDI Director Michael Oglesbee said he expects to release a white paper next week that details the contact network model built to predict what will happen in Ohio.

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The model examines communities statewide, how they interact and what impact social distancing measures will have on the virus spread. Oglesbee said it’s a “learning model” where experts compare yesterday’s prediction with today’s data and adjust — a process that repeats and refines the model.

Oglesbee said the model indicates Ohio’s social distancing — banning mass gatherings, staying home, closing schools and businesses — is working.

The peak in new cases is expected two to three weeks from now and might hit 210,000.

“That 210,000 is probably going to come down, I don’t know how low. It could be 175,000 instead of 210,000. But these numbers are really critical in working with, for example, the Ohio Hospital Association so that they can anticipate what they will need in terms of personnel, personal protective gear, testing materials, ventilators, etc.,” Oglesbee said in a media call this week.

“I don’t think we’re going to see near to the challenge that New York is facing,” Oglesbee said.

As test results come in from private labs and overall testing capacity grows, data streams fed into the model improve, he said.

“Ideally we’d be able to test every symptomatic patient. It gives you a much more accurate denominator in calculating the mortality rate,” Oglesbee said.

A vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus is at least 18 months away but Oglesbee said he believes blood testing may be in place in late April to help determine who had COVID-19, recovered and now has antibodies to protect them as they re-enter the workforce.

“We have some of the most sound data out there,” ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton said.

Acton also addressed the stigma behind coronavirus during the administration's daily news briefing, asking that people respond with compassion.

If you find out someone on your street is sick, your first question should be what can I do to help, Acton said.

She also reminded people that coronavirus “hot spots” don’t always give the full picture. Some places have better access to testing. Data also does not reflect who has recovered from the virus.


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