As state reopens, tragedy and the unknown

Posted May 20, 2020 by

As the State of Ohio begins to open and businesses start ramping up, the news among state front line employees continues to be grim and full of unknowns.

The union learned yesterday about the death of a union brother, Dewane “Pete” Gannon, an Officer at the Correction Reception Center (CRC), who succumbed to the coronavirus on Monday.

CRC Chapter president Rick Daily trained Gannon 10 years ago and said you couldn’t ask for a better friend and colleague. “I feel sorry for you if you didn’t know him,” he said of his friend. Gannon was the second staff at CRC to die from the disease. Sadly, CRC Registered Nurse Barnard Atta also passed away this week.

Daily said with the reception centers starting to take inmates from the county jails, there are a lot of unknowns about how Ohio’s prisons are going to respond to the influx. “The unknown is our biggest fear right now. And we deal with it every day,” he said.

Daily also said this is a time for the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction to be completely transparent about how they plan to forge ahead, which they haven’t been. For example, CRC employees need to know how prisons are going to be responding to getting new inmates.

Daily also has a fundamental concern about the speed at which the state is opening up. “We are the ones on the front lines. We don’t want to move too fast and then front line staff suffer the consequences,” Daily warned.

The union knows that while staff are returning to work from some of the early hotspots, like Marion Correctional, positive cases are mounting in new potential hotspots. OCSEA is closely monitoring Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky, Twin Valley Behavioral Health Center in Columbus and Belmont Correctional Institution, which are now seeing increases in positive cases that could have devastating consequences if not controlled.

Belmont Correctional Institution, in particular, has had a large number of both inmates and staff test positive. As of today, more than 70 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 125 inmates, even though DR&C has now quit the process of mass testing with no explanation.

OCSEA continues to push their agenda with decision makers to increase appropriate PPE and testing for all staff in all 24-7 institutions.

Read more from the local union leadership about the situation at Belmont Correctional Institution:

Eastern Ohio prison new coronavirus hot spot as state scales back testing

Despite staggering case counts and 50 deaths, Ohio prisons halt mass Covid-19 testing