LENOX TWP., Mich. (WXYZ) — The Michigan Department of Corrections is moving 120 COVID inmates to the Macomb Correctional Facility, creating a man-made hotspot. It is raising concerns about the virus being carried out by prison staff and guards into the community.
Township Sup. Anthony Reeder tells 7 Action News the state gave them 24 hours' notice.
“I feel this is an ill move by the state. I feel it could have been in a different community,” he said.
Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz tells 7 Action News, “this is a proactive measure the department is taking to move prisoners with underlying health conditions who are Covid positive to an area where we have a full compliment of nursing and healthcare staff and where there is capacity in the community if prisoners were to need hospitalization.”
Gautz says the state has made similar moves earlier in the pandemic and most prisons are in rural areas where area hospitals can’t take additional prison inmates.
Jeff White is the Lenox Township Public Safety Director who has increased EMS staff scheduling and will be ready with seven EMS units to take inmates as needed to six area hospitals in Macomb, St. Clair and Oakland counties.
“This is what we prepare for,” he said. He said COVID cases comprise 20% of their runs before the prison surge.
“This is crazy,” says Sabrina Stephenson who lives nearby. “It’s going to spread to the guards, then they’re going to bring it home, then everybody else is going to get infected and then a lot of people are just going to die.”
Cody Kistler lives a half-mile from the prison and says, “we’re going to be stuck in another lockdown until January or February again.”
Gautz also says the unit at Macomb Correctional Facility is separate from the rest of the prison and the 120 inmates will not be mixing with the other 1,200 prisoners. And this is one step. The state has 4,746 prisoners statewide with active COVID. So far in the pandemic, 77 inmates and three staff members have died from the virus.