John Dawson

John Dawson (Photo via Facebook)

MANSFIELD -- A 55-year-old Mansfield man, who worked as a corrections officer at the Marion Correctional Institution for more than two decades, has died from COVID-19.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced during Wednesday's press briefing that John Dawson, who had worked at MCI since 1996, testified positive for coronavirus on March 30.

Dawson is the first Richland County resident to die from the disease, according to Richland Public Health.  According to Dawson's Facebook page, he graduated from Ashland High School in 1982.

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“On behalf of the entire county, we express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of (Dawson),” said Sarah Humphrey, health commissioner for Richland Public Health. “Our thoughts go out to the Richland County community, as well as all Ohioans, and those across the world battling this illness and the families of everyone affected by this pandemic."

The case was originally reported by Richland Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health. As is Richland Public Health policy, any additional identifiable information will not be released about the patient to respect the family’s privacy.

After a positive test, Richland Public Health reaches out to all known contacts to help prevent the spread of this disease, Humphrey said.

“For each positive COVID-19 test, Richland Public Health immediately starts a process to identify close contacts to the case. This process starts with each case to limit the potential of further exposure to the public,” Humphrey said.

Dawson was the second employee at the prison to test positive for COVID-19, the governor said.

DeWine said Dawson worked in the prison's control center, distributing equipment to staff. The governor said Dawson had underlying health conditions.

"Our hearts go out to John's family, his friends and his co-workers," the governor said on Twitter. "You are in our prayers."

"Mr. Dawson's death reminds us that although Ohio is doing comparatively well to other areas, we are still seeing a large number of deaths. Our hearts go out to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19."

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website, the entire 2,522-inmate population at the Marion Correctional Institution is under quarantine with 10 inmates in isolation.

The same website said two inmates at the Mansfield Correctional Institution and one at the Richland Correctional Institution are are being kept in isolation while waiting for test results. No positive tests have been reported at either prison in Richland County.

According to the Marion Star, as of Tuesday, seven MCI inmates tested positive and test results were pending for three more.

In addition, at least 26 MCI staff members have tested positive for the virus, said Sally Meckling, communications director for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union that represents Ohio corrections officers,  according to the Star story.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"