Politicians in the US are either too stupid to understand the problem of COVID-19 in prisons, or they want the disease to kill prison populations. Either way, they shouldn’t be in charge. Prisoners should among be the highest priority for vaccination. If a COVID-19 variant appears in the US and runs rampant in the population, it will likely appear in the cramped conditions of a prison where the disease is running unchecked.
In 2015, the US’s National Institutes of Health published the paper (linked below) about the spread of diseases in densely populated areas.
The world is becoming more urban every day, and the process has been ongoing since the industrial revolution in the 18th century. The United Nations now estimates that 3.9 billion people live in urban centres. The rapid influx of residents is however not universal and the developed countries are already urban, but the big rise in urban population in the next 30 years is expected to be in Asia and Africa. Urbanization leads to many challenges for global health and the epidemiology of infectious diseases. New megacities can be incubators for new epidemics, and zoonotic diseases can spread in a more rapid manner and become worldwide threats. Adequate city planning and surveillance can be powerful tools to improve the global health and decrease the burden of communicable diseases.
[. . .]
The rise of the new modern cities also creates potential risks and challenges in the aspect of emerging infectious diseases. Different risk factors in the urban environment can, for example, be poor housing which can lead to proliferation of insect and rodent vector diseases and geohelminthiases. This is connected to inadequate water supplies as well as sanitation and waste management. All contribute to a favourable setting for both different rodents and insects which carry pathogens and soil-transmitted helminth infections. If buildings lack effective fuel and ventilation systems, respiratory tract infections can also be acquired. Contaminated water can spread disease, as can poor food storage and preparation, due to microbial toxins and zoonoses (2). The density of inhabitants and the close contact between people in urban areas are potential hot spots for rapid spread of merging infectious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the avian flu. Criteria for a worldwide pandemic could be met in urban centres, which could develop into a worldwide health crisis (8). Adequate city planning can be a key factor for better overall health, and such considerations must be in the mind of the governing bodies.
US politicians who read it likely thought about well off, gentrified areas with high incomes. They likely said, “we can just wall off poor neighborhoods and compressed areas, like slums, favelas, ghettos and townships.”
If you doubt that, consider how they’re handling US prisons – or rather, mishandling them. COVID-19 is running rampant and killing prisoners at many times the rate of the general population, and politicians say, “who cares? they’re a low priority for vaccinations! wealthy people first!”
The Marshall Project reports that one in five US prisoners has COVID-19, four times the general population. The 1700 who have died are only the “official” count. It’s likely the actual death toll is much higher and has likely been covered up.
One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population. In some states, more than half of prisoners have been infected, according to data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press.
As the pandemic enters its tenth month—and as the first Americans begin to receive a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine—at least 275,000 prisoners have been infected, more than 1,700 have died and the spread of the virus behind bars shows no sign of slowing. New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far outstripping previous peaks in April and August.
“That number is a vast undercount,” said Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex.
Venters has conducted more than a dozen court-ordered COVID-19 prison inspections around the country and said, “I still encounter prisons and jails where, when people get sick, not only are they not tested but they don’t receive care. So they get much sicker than need be.”
Now the rollout of vaccines poses difficult decisions for politicians and policymakers. As the virus spreads largely unchecked behind bars, prisoners can’t social distance and are dependent on the state for their safety and well-being.
Prisoners absolutely are dependent on governments for care. And that government that view them as disposable, cheap slave labour, governments that perpetrate the vicious fiction that “prisoners deserve whatever happens to them”. Just like China.
As the news item below reports, prisoners are NOT isolated. Prison guards, doctors, maintenance staff and others regularly go in and out of prisons. This is likely how COVID-19 got into prisons, and likely how any variants get out.