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Veteran Michigan corrections officer dies after contracting COVID-19

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Randy Rumler, a two-decade veteran of the Michigan Department of Corrections, has died after a battle with COVID-19, the MDOC's Honor Guard announced.

According to the honor guard, Rumler worked his entire 24-year career at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian. In recent years he worked in food service at the facility.

Michigan corrections officer Randy Rumler

Inmates and loved ones connected to the Harrison facility have expressed concerns that the department introduced COVID-19 to the facility by using it as a "step-down" unit for people who had earlier tested positive for the virus but didn't currently have it, and weren't yet ready to return to their home facility.

Though the step-down unit is in another part of the campus from where most people are housed, medical staff works both COVID-19 and non-infected areas. In just one day, in mid-April, the Harrison facility went from 55 infections to 110.

More:Population of Adrian prison COVID-19 'step-down' unit doubles in one day

The coronavirus, which thrives on large groups packed in tight spaces, ripped through the Michigan prison system, infecting more than 4,000 of its roughly 36,000 inmates, and killing 68. 

In May, the corrections department completed testing for every prisoner in the system.

Rumler was one of 383 staffers to catch the virus, including 31 others at Gus Harrison, and he is the third to die after contracting it. That's in addition to 730 prisoners at Harrison who tested positive, and four who died.

Byron Osborn, president of the Michigan Corrections Organization, the union representing the state's 6,000 corrections officers, called Rumler's death "very unfortunate."

"We were hopeful he would recover," Osborn said, noting Rumler had been ill for several weeks. 

"His brothers and sisters (at Harrison) are shook up about it," Osborn said. "It hits pretty hard when it's a colleague."

"This is a very sad day for all of us, especially those who worked closely with Officer Rumler," the corrections department said in a note to its 12,000 employees. "He was an outstanding corrections officer and was loved by his co-workers...Our hearts go out to all the staff at Gus Harrison, as well as the family, friends and all who knew Officer Rumler."

As of Sunday, there are 423 prisoners in step-down units, while 2,667 who have contracted the virus have officially "recovered," or gone 30 days from the onset of symptoms.