Prisons and prisons are among the top hotspots for coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. – and new research at Harvard University suggests that for every person entering a prison, two more people in the communities they return to develop COVID-19 .
At the end of last month, at least 78,526 people in US prisons had tested positive for coronavirus.
It’s no surprise that the coronavirus can spread like wildfire in prisons and prisons where hundreds or thousands of people live nearby and share communal bathrooms and dining rooms.
But the Harvard study found that the impact of these outbreaks isn’t limited to the prison walls.
Instead, the high turnover rate at which people enter and leave prisons and return to their communities is driving higher coronavirus cases in their counties, a phenomenon that contributes to the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on black, Hispanic and poor Americans, it found. the Harvard study.
At least 350 prisoners and staff in Cook County Prison in Illinois contracted coronavirus by April. New research suggests people who entered. and from the massive prison can be linked to more than 15% of infections in Chicago (which is in Cook County)
Prisoners who tested positive for coronavirus in Cook County prison were moved to an isolated area within the facility (photo)
It is ultimately a function of how prisons operate in the US.
Approximately 600,000 people are imprisoned in prisons every year in the United States, but 10.6 million people are detained according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
Prisons usually include people who have been arrested but not convicted, and the vast majority of them will not be.
That means they are held for hours or maybe days and then released.
It only takes one infected person to introduce the coronavirus into a prison population where the virus can spread like a cinder in draft-like conditions like wildfire.
And it only takes a short time in an area of limited viral activity for someone to become infected before it is brought back to the general population in prison.
“You can cycle people through prison as a multiplier effect” on the spread of the coronavirus, said Eric Reinhart, a Harvard anthropology PhD student and study co-author. The Harvard Gazette.
That’s exactly what he and his colleagues found in jail in Cook County, Illinois.
They counted bookings, releases, and coronavirus test results from people entering and leaving Cook County Prison in March, and compared them to changes in the number of new positive tests in the Chicago area.
Dennis Adams was released on parole in May, but faced new detention amid the pandemic. Some prisons also released prisoners to stop outbreaks
1,855 people were booked and 2,129 people were released during the month. The vast majority did not go to prison until February 1, when the coronavirus had come to Chicago (in Cook County).
Two Cook County prisoners tested positive for coronavirus and were isolated on March 23. Within a few weeks, 350 people (including 115 staff) were infected.
Still, in early April, most of the 4,500 prisoners held in the facility had not been tested.
That meant the magnitude of the prison outbreak was unknown – as well as the potential ripples in the greater Chicago area, until the Harvard study that estimated that was published in Health Affairs.
‘You cycle through prison for each person [whether that person becomes infected or not], in the zip code where they come from and where they will return to, you will see 2,149 cases in a three to four week period, ”Reinhart explains.
Protests broke out in New York and across the U.S. demanding that prisoners be released from prisons where the coronavirus was actively spreading
“That doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that 100,000 people are cycled through this prison every year, and then about 5 million people are cycled through prison across the country every year, the multiplier effect takes on a huge scale. ‘
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Chicago Department of Health did not care about that estimate and refuted the newspaper’s findings.
According to The Harvard Gazette, they have even called for it to be removed from health concerns.
In a statement, they gave up the money for the lack of testing, saying that there simply weren’t enough kits available, claiming that Harvard scientists were heading in the direction of viral spread.
“If we could test at the intake from January, it would have shown that the virus was on the street, not the other way around,” the Sheriff’s Office urged.
“This is further supported by the fact that the majority of positive cases come from the communities most affected by COVID-19.”
Over time, the cycling component of the study showed only a correlation between prisoner cycling in and out of prison and the increase in cases, and did not prove that one caused the other.
Still, the research suggests that more than 15 percent of Chicago infections were linked to the thousands of people who cycled into a single giant prison.
“These institutions not only include spaces, but are part of our communities,” said Reinhart.
“They are very porous. People go in and they go out. ‘
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