Expert Pitch
University of Washington

Disaster, epidemic researcher on what prisons and jails should consider during the COVID-19 pandemic

7-Apr-2020 3:50 PM EDT, by University of Washington

With the COVID-19 pandemic reaching prison and jail inmates and staff — the first inmate in the state of Washington tested positive for coronavirus on April 6 and others have tested positive around the country — what should policymakers and correction officials consider when trying to protect inmates and staff?

Meghan McGinty, an affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, provides information about keeping prison and jail inmates as well as staff safe. McGinty is experienced as both a disaster researcher and emergency responder. She is also teaching a course on the COVID-19 pandemic response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How is a prison or jail especially challenged by novel coronavirus outbreak?

“Prisons or jails are what we epidemiologists refer to as ‘congregate settings.’ They are places that people congregate. Much like other settings where people gather, including schools and workplaces, prisons and jails provide an opportunity for infectious diseases to spread because of the close proximity in which people live and interact. 

“Simply put, prisons and jails present challenges by default because people live in close quarters for an extended period of time. It is difficult if not impossible given the facilities to create physical distance between individuals who are incarcerated, as well as between prison staff. Frankly, detention centers, jails and prisons are well suited to transmission of communicable diseases. 

“Coronavirus is not unique. Epidemiologists are always concerned the potential for disease transmission in any place where people eat, sleep and gather in close proximity to one another. Imagine a prison cell. How can imprisoned individuals maintain six feet between each other in a cell thats only six-by-eight feet in size? Its also not possible to physical distancing in an overcrowded dormitory.”

What can correctional facility officers do?

“Prisons and jails are increasingly challenged to keep coronavirus from being introduced given its community-wide spread. One valuable thing some states or localities are doing is decarcertation - or reducing the number of people imprisoned.

“To protect public health, it is essential that jails and prisoners release as many prisoners as if safely possible. Cities, counties or states should consider releasing anyone whose sentence is near over, who is at low risk of reoffending or who are in detention for low-level crimes like shoplifting, especially nonviolent crimes.

“Particular focus should be placed on releasing anyone who is 65 or older or has underlying health conditions that places them at increased risk related to coronavirus. For the duration of the pandemic, in person visits should be suspended and replaced using some digital platform or phone calls to enable detainees to reach their families.

“In addition to freeing detainees, its essential to protect whomever remains in jails or prisons. Jails and prisons can take several other important safety measures. They should increase cleaning, rapidly identify individuals with respiratory illness, isolate persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and replace in-person visits with tele-visits.

“Jails and prisons also have a responsibility to provide health care for individuals imprisoned within their facilities. Its important that they continue to refine their pandemic response plans to ensure local area hospitals are able to care for anyone coming from the jail or prison with COVID-19. 

“Finally, jurisdictions should also stop prosecuting drug offenses, prostitution or ‘nuisance’ crimes. Most importantly, jails should not detain immigrants or those who are undocumented.”

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2527
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:50 PM EDT
Genetic ‘fingerprints’ of first COVID-19 cases help manage pandemic
University of Sydney

A new study published in the world-leading journal Nature Medicine, reveals how genomic sequencing and mathematical modelling gave important insights into the ‘parentage’ of cases and likely spread of the disease in New South Wales.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:35 PM EDT
Our itch to share helps spread COVID-19 misinformation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

To stay current about the Covid-19 pandemic, people need to process health information when they read the news. Inevitably, that means people will be exposed to health misinformation, too, in the form of false content, often found online, about the illness.

Newswise: Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:25 PM EDT
Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

As of May 2020, nursing home residents account for a staggering one-third of the more than 80,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. This pandemic has resulted in unprecedented threats—like reduced access to resources needed to contain and eliminate the spread of the virus—to achieving and sustaining care quality even in the best nursing homes. Active engagement of nursing home leaders in developing solutions responsive to the unprecedented threats to quality standards of care delivery is required.

Newswise: General Electric Healthcare Chooses UH to Clinically 
Evaluate First-of-its-kind Imaging System
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:15 PM EDT
General Electric Healthcare Chooses UH to Clinically Evaluate First-of-its-kind Imaging System
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center

University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center physicians completed evaluation for the GE Healthcare Critical Care Suite, and the technology is now in daily clinical practice – flagging between seven to 15 collapsed lungs per day within the hospital. No one on the team could have predicted the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this technology and future research with GEHC may enhance the capability to improve care for COVID-19 patients in the ICU. Critical Care Suite is now assisting in COVID and non-COVID patient care as the AMX 240 travels to intensive care units within the hospital.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 11:50 AM EDT
COVID-19 Can Be Transmitted in the Womb, Reports Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

A baby girl in Texas – born prematurely to a mother with COVID-19 – is the strongest evidence to date that intrauterine (in the womb) transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can occur, reports The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the official journal of The European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:45 AM EDT
How COVID-19 Shifted Inpatient Imaging Utilization
Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute

As medical resources shifted away from elective and non-urgent procedures toward emergent and critical care of COVID-19 patients, departments were forced to reconfigure their personnel and resources. In particular, many Radiology practices rescheduled non-urgent and routine imaging according to recommendations from the American College of Radiology (ACR). This new Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute study, published online in the Journal of American College of Radiology (JACR), evaluates the change in the inpatient imaging volumes and composition mix during the COVID-19 pandemic within a large healthcare system.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 12-Jul-2020 7:00 PM EDT Released to reporters: 10-Jul-2020 9:00 AM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 12-Jul-2020 7:00 PM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:00 AM EDT
Team is first in Texas to investigate convalescent plasma for prevention of COVID-19 onset and progression
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

A research team is the first in Texas to investigate whether plasma from COVID-19 survivors can be used in outpatient settings to prevent the onset and progression of the virus in two new clinical trials at UTHealth.

Showing results

110 of 2527