U.S. prisons were COVID hothouses during pandemic first wave

By John Commins

Inmates in the nation’s prisons were more than three times as likely to contract COVID-19 and more than twice as likely to die from it during the first year of the pandemic, when compared with the overall U.S. population, a new research letter shows.

Writing this week in JAMA, University of California at Los Angeles researchers looked at COVID-19 cases and deaths among U.S. federal and state prisoners for 52 weeks from April 5, 2020, to April 3, 2021 and compared these rates with the overall U.S. population.

The findings showed that 394,066 COVID cases and 2,555 deaths had been documented in U.S. prisons in that 52-week span.

The cumulative incidence rate per 100,000 prisoners for the period was 30,780 cases, compared with 9,350 cases for the U.S. population.

The standardized mortality rate per 100,000 prisoners over the same one-year span was 199.6 prisoner deaths versus nearly 80 deaths for the U.S. population.

In December 2020, at the peak of the epidemic inside prisons, prisoners were five times as likely to contract COVID-19, and nearly three times as likely to die from it, the research found.

“While COVID-19 incidence and mortality rates peaked in late 2020 and early 2021 and have since declined, the cumulative toll of COVID-19 has been several times greater among the prison population than the overall US population,” the study said.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand. This story first ran on HealthLeader Media

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