Coronavirus spreads like wildfire in Marion prison and far-right extremists show up to stay-at-home protests

On Friday, Alive reported on the threat the novel coronavirus poses to incarcerated Ohioans. ″[We] talked about the virus and knew it was just a matter of time before it got to the workhouse,” one former inmate said in an email. ”[We] discussed this every day and knew that once it got into the jail that it would spread like fire.”

Over the weekend, those fears were confirmed. The Dispatch reports that more than 1,800 inmates at Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive for coronavirus, along with 109 staffers (one of whom has died). From the story by Patrick Cooley and Jim Woods: "Overall, the state’s prison system has recorded 2,426 positive results among inmates, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said. That number is 21% of the total confirmed cases in Ohio. The majority of those cases are at the Marion Correctional Institution, where 1,828 inmates — 73% of the total — have tested positive for the virus, state officials say."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has been lauded for taking early and aggressive actions to help "flatten the curve," but the state's comparatively slow response regarding those held in Ohio's correctional institutions has begun to tarnish that reputation in recent days.

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Saturday saw more protesters railing against the March stay-at-home orders issued via Gov. DeWine and Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. In this Dispatch photo gallery, you'll see the familiar Guy Fawkes masks and Trump placards and homemade signs saying "End the lockdown" and "Open Ohio" and plenty of people putting themselves and others in danger by blatantly defying social distancing guidelines. 

But, as is often the case, there's an even darker, extremist underbelly to these protests. Of course the anti-vaxxers signed on, but so did Confederate flag boosters and members of hate group the Proud Boys. A photo of a horrifying, Nazi-evoking, anti-Semitic sign also circulated on social media. Oh, and of course Melissa Ackison, a Republican from Marysville running for Ohio Senate, reappeared. 

As the Guardian and others have reported, these protests claim to provide a bullhorn for ordinary citizens, but they are backed by far-right groups. These Reddit threads parse the strategy/concept of "astroturfing" and how only a handful of groups are the real catalysts behind these seemingly grassroots protests.

And yet, President Trump is siding with protesters, tweeting his support with slogans like, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" Stephen Moore, a conservative economist and member of the White House council to reopen the country, has been comparing the protesters to a "modern-day Rosa Parks."

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In better news, the first two installments of ESPN's 10-part documentary series on Michael Jordan, "The Last Dance," aired last night, and it was awesome. If nothing else, maybe we can all unite over the nostalgic dominance of His Airness (but probably not). Look for the next episode on Sunday at 9 p.m.