Covid Correctional: behind Ohio’s campaign to get prisoners vaccinated

When James Burris was sent to quarantine in a solitary confinement cell, the doctor wouldn’t tell him who allegedly exposed him to the coronavirus, citing laws protecting personal medical information. Burris said he and the four other men sent off to quarantine with him deduced who might have exposed them by comparing notes. 

“None of us knew each other,” Burris says. “The only thing we had in common was we all had been in [remote] contact with the Global Tel Link lady.”

Global Tel Link, or GTL, provides digital tablets inmates can use to buy music and rent movies. Burris’ signed up to see the GTL worker because his tablet was broken, but he said he hadn’t even met with her that day because he had been in dialysis. No one in the quarantine group caught COVID-19.

Why did 77 Ohio prisoners die of COVID-19, but just 10 in Pennsylvania?

A look at how overcrowding and poor design contributed to two of the worst national outbreaks

This article was provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join our free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. For the first two months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., Ohio’s response set an example. Thanks to an early shutdown order, the state’s per-capita deaths from the virus as of late April were less than half of those in neighboring Pennsylvania, a state with similar demographics. But inside the two states’ prison systems, it was a different story. 

By late April , the death rate from COVID-19 in Ohio prisons was 22 per 100,000, a rate more than 4 ½ times the overall Ohio rate and nearly twice the national rate. 

As of August 14, there have been 77 inmate deaths known to be caused by COVID-19, and another 10 suspected— a rate of 160 deaths per 100,000 people.