When in the prisons of Ohio surfaced first cases of 2019 coronavirus-nCoV, the Executive Director realized that he faced an uncontrolled situation, writes Reuters.
“We couldn’t always pinpoint where did all the cases,” said Annette chambers-Smith, Director of the Department of rehabilitation and correction Ohio. As the spread of the virus began mass testing.
It all started with the correctional institution Marion in the Northern part of the state, which houses 2,500 prisoners, many of them with already existing diseases and older age. After testing the 2300 prisoners coronavirus authorities were shocked. Only one of the institutions showed 2028 people with a positive result: nearly 95% of the infected had no symptoms.
In four state prisons — Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia — 96% of 3277 prisoners who have been identified positive for coronavirus, was asymptomatic, according to surveys of officials and the reports reviewed by Reuters. All was done 4693 tests.
These figures are further evidence that people who have no symptoms — contagious, but not sick — may be the cause of the spread of the virus, not only in the state prisons, which contains 1.3 million prisoners throughout the country, but in towns and groups around the world. The figures also answer the question about how objectivity can be tested only those who show symptoms of or is suspected carriers of the virus.
“This adds to the understanding that we have a serious undercount of cases in the United States, says Dr. Leana Wen, an associate Professor of emergency medicine at the George Washington University. — The number of cases is probably much, much higher than we know at present due to the lack of testing and monitoring”.
However, according to the researchers, some people diagnosed with an asymptomatic condition when tested for coronavirus, can show symptoms later.
In the United States is behind bars more people than any other country, the total prison population of nearly 2.3 million people, nearly half of them are in state prisons. Fewer people are sitting in Federal and local jails, which typically hold inmates for relatively short periods while awaiting trial.
The prison system in Michigan, Tennessee and California began mass testing — check for the presence of coronavirus in a large number of prisoners, even if they have no signs of disease, but did not provide specific estimates of asymptomatic prisoners.
Authorities in Tennessee say that most people with positive test results did not have symptoms. In Michigan, the authorities said that “a significant number” of the 620 detainees with a positive result for coronavirus was asymptomatic. The prison system of the state of California does not report the number of asymptomatic prisoners.
Each state operates several prisons. In Ohio, for example, there are 49 000 prisoners in 28 facilities. A total of 3837 prisoners tested positive for the coronavirus in 15 of these institutions. But the state has not provided the results for symptoms for 1809 of them and have not determined the total number of tests conducted in the penitentiary system.
Arkansas and Tennessee also adopted a targeted approach by conducting mass testing on several of their sites. Michigan, North Carolina, California and Virginia started with one Agency in each state.
Most prisons did not provide information about the age or other demographic data of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, which has killed more than 200,000 people worldwide, including more than 53,000 in the United States.
Edition Reuters examined all 50 of the prison systems of the States. Of the 30 respondents the majority test only prisoners who have had symptoms, suggesting that they may significantly underestimate the number of people infected with coronavirus.
Florida and Texas, the number of prisoners in which more than in Ohio, reported a total number of only 931 cases that are much less than 3837 concluded with a positive outcome in Ohio. New York, the epicentre of the outbreak in the United States, reported 269 positive cases among 51 000 prisoners. All three States are testing only prisoners with symptoms.
“Penitentiary institutions almost certainly underestimate the number of cases COVID-19 among prisoners, said Michele Deitch, an expert on correctional work and senior lecturer at the University of Texas. — As we’re told by the experts, the only way to get ahead of this outbreak is the mass testing”.
Prison representatives in Florida and Texas stated that they follow the guidelines of the US Centers for control and prevention of diseases, as well as officials from state health testing only prisoners with symptoms of the virus. The Department of corrections of new York said that its policy of testing only prisoners with symptoms “reflects the testing of the General public”.
In Tennessee took more stringent measures after correctional complex Bledsoe County in the city Pikeville a dozen inmates showed positive results for coronavirus. The Department of corrections checked 3503 inmates in Bledsoe, Northwest correctional complex in an industrial complex in Turn center. As of Friday, April 24, 651 were positive, and the majority without symptoms.
“That’s what makes the pandemic more difficult to manage, said mark stern, former medical Director of the Department of corrections of the state of Washington and a lecturer in the School of public health, University of Washington. — Many people have no symptoms.”
After the recent surge of cases in the correctional institution in the News in Goldsboro, North Carolina, staff checked all 723 prisoners. According to the Department of public security of the state, of the 444 infected with the virus 98% had no symptoms. One prisoner died in prison.
Similarly, during mass testing at two Arkansas prisons in the city of Grady and the state capital of little Rock — was revealed 751 infected prisoners, almost all of them had symptoms, the report said the state corrections Department. Unknown total number of prisoners that have been tested.
Arkansas prison previously experienced outbreaks of contagious diseases such as scabies and chicken pox, but these episodes were easier to handle because the prisoners were the obvious symptoms, said the press-Secretary of the Department of corrections Arkansas Dina Tyler.
“But with this virus you have no idea about the exact number of cases because many are asymptomatic. It is very difficult to contain,” said she.
In a correctional facility Michigan Lakeland are one of the oldest and weakest from a medical point of view of prisoners in the United States. When the number of cases of coronavirus has increased, in prison, there was a surge of infections and deaths. As at 23 April 9 prisoners of Lakeland died of COVID-19, which is one third of the deaths in the 29 prisons of Michigan.
According to the state, nearly half of the 1,400 prisoners in Lakeland suffering from chronic diseases. Many of them are in wheelchairs, and the establishment of minimum security in southern Michigan, a private geriatric ward for the elderly.
Authorities have tested all 400 prisoners in geriatric and plan to test the rest of the companies. Tested 642 of 971, or approximately 66%, gave positive results. Officials declined to say how many of them were asymptomatic.
All prisoners are placed in quarantine in their rooms, awaiting the results of tests that usually come back in a day. A 24-hour period is extremely important, because as soon as the prisoner gives a negative result, he may return to a rest, authorities say.
Seven state prison systems, conducting mass trials, 49 prisoners died.
Because the coronavirus is spreading behind bars, human rights organizations and the public defenders say they fear increased mortality, and insist on the liberation of elderly people who committed non-violent crimes, and inmates with high medical risk. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have raised concerns that prisons can become carriers of the disease.
“This is worse than stuck at sea cruise ships,” said stern, an expert in correctional institutions, referring to the famous cruise liner with multiple cases of coronavirus infection, who did not want to take no port in the world.