Second Elkton Prison Inmate Dies from COVID-19

LISBON, Ohio — Two inmates at the federal correction institution in Elkton were among three new COVID-19 deaths Friday in Columbiana County, according to the county health district.

This brings the total positive cases in the county to 28, with five deaths to date, according to Laura Fauss, public information officer. All three new deaths were hospitalized males with underlying health conditions. Their ages ranged between 53 and 76 years old, she reported.

In a release Friday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported 65-year-old Elkton inmate Margarito Garcia-Fragoso died Thursday after having been evaluated March 27 by medical staff at the facility then transported to a local hospital for further treatment due to inability to maintain oxygen saturation.

While at the hospital, Garcia-Fragoso tested positive for COVID-19, and he was placed on a ventilator after his condition quickly declined. According to the release, Garcia-Fragoso had long-term pre-existing medical conditions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists as risk factors for those who develop COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus.

Garcia-Fragoso was serving a 126-month sentence for possession with intent to distribute of more than 500 grams of cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crime. He had been in custody at the Elkton facility since Jan. 10, 2017.

On Thursday, the bureau reported the death of Elkton inmate Woodrow Taylor, 53, who – after being evaluated March 31 by in-house medical staff – had been transported to a local hospital where his condition declined. Like Garcia-Fragoso, Taylor had an underlying condition.

The numbers released Friday by the county health district reflect cases in East Liverpool City Hospital, Salem Regional Medical Center and the federal prison, Fauss said, but she declined to confirm where inmates from the prison are treated.

“I believe the prison has a contract for hospital needs, which we are obviously not involved with,” she said.

Asked if the health district has any jurisdiction over the federal prison in regard to reporting positive cases or deaths from COVID-19 or in how inmates are housed, Fauss replied, “We do not have jurisdiction within the federal prison. We have a good working relationship with the prison and have been working with prison officials to offer guidance as necessary. This is no different than any other disease investigation cases we have had at the prison in the past.

“We are notified of positive cases within the prison just as we are patients in the hospital as the tests are confirmed by the laboratory. We do not have access to information of how many pending test cases the prison has because of the change in testing guidance from the state,” Fauss continued.

Calls to the prison Friday were not answered.

Considering ongoing complaints by residents wanting more information on the location of positive cases, Fauss was asked if any thought has been given to providing such demographic details.

“Our position has not changed related to releasing demographic case information,” she said. “We would like members of our community to be aware that the virus is here and community spread has been established. Due to the limit on testing, releasing additional demographic information could allow residents a false sense of security.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.