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State moves prisoners with COVID from rural areas in an effort to aid hospitals

Ministero Difesa

The Michigan Department of Corrections said on Wednesday it began moving prisoners with the coronavirus from rural prisons to a facility in Macomb county.

The move is part of an effort to reduce the impact that prisoners with COVID might have on hospitals in rural areas.

COVID beds at the War Memorial Hospital in Sault Sainte Marie are currently at 92% capacity.

David Jahn, President and CEO of the Hospital said the hospital has been in talks with the corrections department to avoid being impacted by patients from the two-state prisons in their area.

“That’s really going to take the pressure off of us - or the potential pressure,” he said.

Jahn said he heard that 80 prisoners in their region had contracted the virus.

“If all 80 of those got critically sick it would overflow our organization really quickly,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections was not able to confirm that 80 prisoners were positive with COVID-19 within Jahn’s district, but noted that statewide 30 prisoners are currently hospitalized with the virus.

Chris Gautz with the Michigan Department of Corrections said hospitals in Macomb county will be better able to manage prisoners in need of critical care due to COVID than the Upper Peninsula.

“We don’t want to be a strain on them because we know they are dealing with a lot right now.”

The Upper Peninsula has 79 ICU beds. Currently, 48 of those are in use.

Gautz said the department is in the process of moving prisoners who have tested positive for the virus but aren’t actively in need of hospitalization.

“It’s really helpful in two ways,” he said. “It helps us ease the burden on local rural hospitals and ensures us we’re going to provide the care that prisoners need and deserve.”

Across the state, more than 4,700 prisoners are currently positive for COVID-19.