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Transportation officer in Detroit is first MDOC employee to die due to COVID-19

fence inside a prison grounds
John McGuire for Michigan Radio

A Michigan Department of Corrections transportation officer died Tuesday due to complications from COVID-19. The MDOC did not disclose the officer’s age or if there were underlying health conditions, only that the officer worked at a facility in Detroit.

Chris Gautz is the public information officer for MDOC. He says the department is taking a lot of precautions to prevent the further spread of the virus in Michigan’s 29 prisons.


“We've been able to handle the number of cases that we have so far. We've been able to move around resources, we've been able to move around staff at the places where we have had a number of cases... We currently have had just nine facilities that have positive prisoner cases.”


Gautz says that as of Wednesday morning, there are 141 positive cases among those nine prisons.


“We've been doing everything we can to limit spread within the facilities where we have had positive cases. We've done that by severely limiting the movement at those prisons, providing masks and PPE for the staff to wear.”


All MDOC employees have their temperatures taken using non-contact thermometers and are screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before they start their shifts. Gautz says that employees had reported attempting to get tested for COVID-19, but were turned away due to a shortage of tests, which means MDOC had to strengthen their screening.


“We know the prisoners obviously aren’t the ones who are going out into the community, they’re not travelling to other states or other areas or internationally: it’s being brought in by our staff so we have to do everything we can to make sure the staff who are coming in don’t have it.” 


According to Gautz, immunocompromised workers and workers older than 60 years old are still expected to come into work, unless they have a doctor’s note and use sick leave, or obtain sick leave through the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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