Ohio man becomes eighth Elkton federal prison inmate to die of coronavirus


By Eric Heisig - Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)



CLEVELAND, Ohio — Officials said Wednesday a Reynoldsburg man is the eighth inmate to die of the coronavirus at the sole federal prison in Ohio, where dozens have tested positive.

James Druggan, 70, visited the health staff at Federal Correctional Institution Elkton on April 5, and they moved him to a hospital because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. He tested positive for the coronavirus while hospitalized, according to a news release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

His condition declined while he was in the hospital and medical staff placed him on a ventilator on April 6. Federal Bureau of Prisons says Druggan, who died Wednesday, had pre-existing medical conditions that put him at an increased risk of severe illness associated with the coronavirus.

Druggan was serving a 10-year sentence after his conviction for distribution of child pornography. He had been at Elkton since 2015.

He is the eighth inmate to die at the federal prison located in Columbiana County, about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland, since April 2.

One hundred-five inmates at the prison have tested positive as of Wednesday, as well as 49 staff members, according to the prisons bureau. Prison officials have said they have struggled to obtain more tests, and advocates fear the numbers are much higher.

The low-security prison, which currently houses nearly 2,000 male inmates at its main facility and 407 at an adjacent lockup, has been a prime example for advocates who have urged county, state and federal officials to reduce the number of inmates. They say the inability to social distance, as well as a lack of quality health care, means the people inside are more at risk of contracting the virus.

The prison, like other federal lockups across the country, is on lockdown. Officials said inmates have been given surgical and cloth masks.

A federal judge last month, who was critical of the lack of testing conducted by federal officials, ordered the prisons bureau to identify Elkton inmates who are at serious risk of the coronavirus so they can either be released or moved to another prison.

Prison officials identified 837 inmates who are 65 years old or older or had certain pre-existing conditions. Druggan and an Akron man who died last week were both on that list.

Attorneys for the prisons bureau wrote in a court filing Wednesday that five inmates are currently awaiting release, while another 72 are under review to see whether they can be released. They wrote that 42 inmates are in quarantine and that 20 are either hospitalized or at rehabilitation facilities.

The filing also said that prison officials are in talks with an outside laboratory to conduct mass testing among inmates.

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By Eric Heisig

Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)

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