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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Ohio Prison Worker Dies, State Makes Appeal for Reuse of Masks

a photo of marion correctional institution
55-year old John Dawson of Mansfield was a corrections worker at the Marion Correctional Institution. He was the second person at the facility to test positive for COVID-19. The governor announced Wednesday that he had died.

At his press conference Wednesday, Governor Mike DeWine made a public plea to Ohio’s hospitals, asking them to save their N95 protective masks so they can be decontaminated.

Rather than discard masks after use, the Columbus-based Battelle Labs has developed a new method of decontaminating the protective devices so they can be reused. Ohio’s healthcare organizations are suffering from a critical shortage of protective supplies, including gloves, face shields, masks and respirators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given Battelle emergency authorization to use the new technologyduring this crisis.

“Every mask is precious,” DeWine said. “You’re denying somebody else a mask,” when responders and hospitals workers throw the masks away instead of recycling them, he said.

DeWine also announced a major gift of protective supplies — 100,000 N95 masks from the Apple computer company. DeWine said he thanked Apple CEO Tim Cook personally on the phone last night, while walking on his farm in Greene County.

The governor said the state is also looking to get the equipment it needs by other means, including trying to get a shipment in from China.

Prison worker dies
DeWine said today that a corrections officer at Marion Correctional Institution has died from COVID-19. DeWine says 55-year-old John Dawson, from Mansfield, tested positive for the coronavirus on March 30. DeWine said the officer had an underlying health condition.

Dawson was the second officer to test positive for the virus in the Marion facility. So far, DeWine says 48 Ohio prison staff members have tested positive, along with 17 inmates at seven correctional facilities.

He says “aggressive” testing is happening in the prisons. Compared to other places, DeWine says Ohio is doing very well.

However, “Mr. Dawson’s death reminds us that, as we celebrate the fact that Ohio is doing comparatively well, we are still seeing a large number of deaths,” DeWine said. “People are dying every single day.”

Numbers continue to rise
As of Wednesday morning, there have now been at least 193 deaths due to COVID-19 in Ohio, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. And those numbers are predicted to increase.

So far, there have been 5,148 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, Acton said, along with 1,495 hospitalizations and 472 ICU admissions.

“More people went to the hospital. More people died than the day before,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “And those aren’t models. Those are real people. Those are people with families, people with loved ones. And we deeply, deeply care about what happens to them — and that we know we are in a battle that has to be won.”

Unemployment and childcare
Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, said today that the state has already paid out $124 million in COVID-related unemployment claims to about 195,000 Ohioans.

She says the department’s primary goal right now is staffing up to meet the unprecedented surge in claims they are receiving. Hall says the unemployment call center is now open seven days a week.

By the end of this week, she says ODJFS will have 1,000 people taking calls. Hall says the department is also responding in other ways. Additional SNAP food assistance benefits are being provided, and the pandemic childcare program for essential workers has already enrolled nearly 27,000 children.