Skip navigation

Articles by Nicole Wetsman

Prisons and Jails Are Vulnerable to COVID-19 Outbreaks

by Nicole Wetsman, The Verge

Note: This story was originally published March 7.

This week, a person incarcerated in King County Jail in downtown Seattle was taken to the hospital after they were suspected of having the new coronavirus. The county says there are no cases currently in the jail, but the new virus remains a huge concern for correctional facilities, particularly in outbreak hotspots like King County. With 85 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, the county is home to the largest known hotspot of cases of the new coronavirus in the United States.

It’s only a matter of time before the novel coronavirus enters a U.S. jail or prisons, says Tyler Winkelman, co-director of the Health, Homelessness, and Criminal Justice Lab at the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute in Minneapolis. “All prisons and jails should anticipate that the coronavirus will enter their facility, and they need to have plans for monitoring and treating anyone who has symptoms,” he says.

People regularly cycle in and out of jails and prisons, people who work in them leave and return daily, and visitors regularly stream through. Viruses of all kinds have multiple entry points, and those that enter ...