Well, it looks as if our beautiful island isn’t going to dodge the Coronavirus Death March after all. For the past several months I’ve blogged about how my Ohio facility has remained an odd oasis in a sea of pandemic. I’ve watched the world outside slowly contort and twist upon itself as the virus has slayed its way across the planet. All of us here have watched apprehensively as several Ohio prisons exploded into worse case scenarios.
COVID-19 is terrifying for inmates. We live in a closed system where overcrowding guarantees mass transmission of viruses and bacterium. Every winter the flu rips through the facilty, and nearly everyone catches it in one form or another. From time to time rare viruses like norovirus, the type that you’ve probably seen on the news sickening cruise ship passengers, makes an appearance. When it does, it’s a savage, brutal few weeks of sickness for many men. We even have times when bacteria like staph will spread from community surfaces. Yet, despite all of this, rarely does anyone die. It’s unheard of.
COVID-19 is different. It’s a savage monster. It’s the nightmare scenario for inmates. If the virus gets into the facility people are going to die. Not one, not two, but dozens of inmates. This past Friday I mentioned the scenario just now unfolding at my facility. Since then more staff have fallen ill and even more have been sent home for quarantine. But the news that really has our attention is the probable first inmate case of COVID-19, a recent arrival from the reception center. One of the cell blocks has been designated for quarantine and that’s where you’ll go if you get sick. And, that’s where you will stay until you get better or until you die. That’s the reality of COVID-19 for inmates.
I’ve heard from a number of guys elsewhere in the state. Each time brings news of someone we know dying from COVID-19. Here one day, gone the next. Does anyone care? Or are we ‘just inmates’?
I’ve noticed that the news used to follow the outbreak in the state’s prisons, but now you hear nothing. Why is this? What has changed? So in the days to come I’ll write about this and you will know. Maybe we’ll get lucky again and dodge the bullet? I have a terrible feeling we’ve dodged all the bullets we can dodge.