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Articles by Michael D. Cohen, MD

The Latest News on How to Protect Yourself From Infection

by Michael D. Cohen, M.D.

Recommendations for behaviors to reduce exposure to coronavirus and infection are changing as more knowledge is gained about the virus and the disease. Of course, implementing these behaviors in a prison setting is often impossible, but it’s worth passing on newer information so prisoners can do their best to stay safe.

Initial recommendations were based on our best knowledge at the time. We knew very little about this new coronavirus, so recommendations were based on experience with other viruses.

We know that influenza (the “flu”) spreads through direct contact with droplets or mucus from the nose and lungs. This is very important for spread of flu, but recent observations suggest it is less important for spread of COVID-19. You need to protect yourself from seasonal flu, so all the habits to avoid direct contact with secretions are still very important for your health:

  • No shaking hands.
  • Avoid touching your face especially eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Proper handwashing techniques.
  • Hand sanitizer after contact with any surfaces frequently touched by others.
  • Routine sanitizing of surfaces in your cell and especially in common areas like dayrooms, toilets, showers, cafeterias, etc.

These hygiene practices are still important even after ...

Coronavirus Will Not Be Controlled in Country Until It Is Controlled in Prisons and Jails

If staff continue to get infected and introduce the virus back into the community, there will still be outbreaks that can spread widely if not well controlled. Such concerns should lead first to fewer arrests, bookings and jailings for minor crimes, as well as to greater efforts to identify cases and control the spread in jails and prisons.

An editorial in the July American Journal of Public Health summed up the reasons that prisons are high-risk institutions (i.e. overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions) and a potential source of re-infection for local communities and beyond.

And an important report from Illinois was discussed in an opinion article in The New York Times on July 6. It examined the impact of people booked into Cook County jail on the spread of coronavirus in Chicago and on Illinois as a whole. That jail was the site of one of the larger outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country. As reported, “The cycle of arrests, jailings and releases was the most significant ...

Status of the Pandemic Heading into Summer

by Michael D. Cohen, M.D.

Though the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in the United States and around the world, numerous areas of the country have staged re-openings. They were premature and poorly conceived, so it’s no surprise that half the states have increasing numbers of cases. 

Several states subsequently had their largest single-day case reports, and hospitalizations also are rising. We are still in the first wave of this pandemic. A second wave is anticipated this winter. It is estimated that fewer than 5% of the U.S. population has been infected so far, so the population is largely still susceptible. Widespread disease can occur if uncontrolled community transmission is allowed to occur.

At press time, cases, hospitalizations and deaths continued to decline in New York, New Jersey and other states in the Northeast. It is believed that this is the result of slow and carefully calibrated re-opening of commerce. But numbers may be stabilizing at a plateau of 30 to 50 deaths a day in New York state.

Largest Clusters are
in Prisons and Jails

The New York Times publishes lists ofclusters of cases throughout the U.S. The largest cluster included over 2,000 cases at the Marion Correctional Institution ...

Staying Alive: A Doctor’s Guide for Prisoners on Staying Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic

We are entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Efforts to prevent infection by closing all but essential businesses, staying at home, physical distancing, wearing face masks, frequent hand washing, no face touching, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces have begun to be effective where they have been seriously implemented by states and citizens. Hospitalizations and deaths have declined substantially in hard hit states with strong prevention orders like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and California.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is spreading unevenly across the nation. In some states, nursing homes, meat processing plants and prisons have had large clusters of cases. Such clusters are even occurring in regions that have not yet seen widespread community transmission.

COVID-19 disease is continuing to spread to additional urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country. It is not as aggressive as the initial outbreaks in New York and New Jersey, but geographic spread, numbers of cases, and deaths are continuing to rise. The World Health Organization is predicting that it will be with us for a long time to come.

Now that more virus testing for diagnosis is finally becoming available, there is ...

May Update: Protect Yourself and Your Facility from COVID-19

In the April issue of Prison Legal News, I discussed the nature of the disease called COVID-19 (COrona VIrus Disease-2019) and ways to protect yourself and your facility through personal cleanliness, social distancing and environmental cleanliness. This month I will continue those themes and also ...

Protect Yourself and Your Facility from COVID-19

by Michael D. Cohen, M.D.


The novel coronavirus is now a global pandemic and is widespread in the United States, causing a disease called COVID-19. It is likely that a majority of the population will eventually become infected with this virus. Here is some information about the coronavirus and ...

Prisoner Self Care: Hypertension

by Michael D. Cohen M.D.


This article is about high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Hypertension is a common chronic disease that arises slowly and continues for years. It generally causes few or no symptoms. Treatment is directed at controlling the blood pressure, not curing the underlying disease. Hypertension ...

Prison Health and Self-Care: MRSA

by Michael D. Cohen MD


There is much concern among prisoners about skin infections caused by a well-publicized germ called MRSA. This article explains what MRSA is, what you can do to protect yourself from MRSA, and how to take care of yourself if you get a skin infection ...