Forty percent of Arkansas’ COVID19 cases are prisoners. In a Marion, Ohio prison, more than 1800 prisoners and 100 guards have tested positive for novel Coronavirus. That is 73% of the inmates in that prison. Although prisons and jails are hotspots for the novel Coronavirus across the country, Arizona has no clue what in happening in our prisons with COVID19.
We have tested only 0.4% of the 41,594 prisoners in Arizona. NONE of the nearly 5000 women at the Perryville prison have been tested. Only six of the 5000 prisoners in the Yuma prison have been tested. Arizona is in the dark about the extent of the novel Coronavirus spread in our prison system, and Governor Ducey and the Department of Corrections (DOC) are making no moves toward improving the situation or the lack of transparency. The DOC has a dashboard up, but the data are minimalist.
In addition to not knowing what’s going on in the prisons, there is no transparency in the Arizona data related to COVID19 in long-term care facilities. In New York, 25% of the COVID19 cases are in long-term care (LTC) facilities including the senior living centers. Arizona long-term care providers tell me they are providing data to federal, state and county governments, but those data are not on the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) website.
The people of Arizona are being kept in the dark about COVID19 in prisons and LTC centers. Many of us have loved ones in an assisted living center, a nursing home, a skilled nursing facility, a jail, or a prison– or who work there.
Until we know the extent of infection in these high-risk facilities, we have no idea what the spread of the novel coronavirus is in the state of Arizona. The caregivers and prison guards are unknowingly working with infected patients and inmates without protective gear. This situation puts prisoners, guards and all of their families at risk.
The heartbreak in this situation is the Arizona has the money. The legislature gave Ducey $50 million in emergency funds from the rainy day fund and appropriated another $55 million in the skinny budget before we adjourned. Very little of that has been spent. Why!? Why is Ducey sitting on the funds we appropriated to fight the virus?
In addition to speaking with House Democrats and an ACLU lawyer yesterday about prisoners, I had a phone call with a lobbyist about long-term care￼ facilities. I have been concerned about LTC and senior living facilities since this outbreak began because the original outbreak in Seattle was in a nursing home chain. Residents are at risk because such a huge percentage of the caregivers are part time gig economy workers with multiple jobs. He said that more than a month ago the LTC providers asked AHCCCS to release federal funds to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for caregivers. Nada. No action by AHCCCS. Why not? The money is there. The need is there. What is the hold up?
I asked him about the LTC COVID19 data. He told me that they are reporting the data to four different governmental entities– CDC, ADHS, EMS and county health departments — in four different formats and databases.￼ I was flabbergasted. If they’re providing the data, why can’t we see it?
Again, there’s a lack of transparency in the prison data and the long-term care data. We know these areas to be COVID-19 hotspots in other states, but the status of these facilities– and the people inside– is unknown in Arizona.￼
The outbreak numbers that are being reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services are woefully incomplete because of low testing overall and because of lack of transparency regarding the status of prisons and long-term care facilities. We can and should do better.
[There is a Zoom meeting tonight, April 23, about COVID19 in Arizona prisons. Here is the link to the information in the Blog for Arizona calendar.]
Ohio Began Mass Testing Incarcerated People for COVID-19. The Results Paint a Bleak Picture for the U.S. Prison System, Time Magazine, April 22, 2010.
38 percent of Arkansas COVID-19 cases concentrated in state prison, The Hill, April 21, 2020.
Lawsuit Filed Over Coronavirus Outbreak at Arkansas Prison, US News, April 21, 2020.
Coronavirus deaths at US nursing homes, long-term facilities reach over 10,000, NY Post, April 23, 2020.
Many of Pima County’s coronavirus deaths are from a single Tucson nursing home, source says, AZCentral, April 18, 2020.
29 Dead at One Nursing Home From the Virus. Or More. No One Will Say., New York Times, April 16, 2020. (This is the same nursing home chain as in the Tucson facility featured in AZCentral story above.)
ODH releases nursing home COVID-19 numbers, ABC News, April 22, 2020. (Ohio released information and data on cases of COVID19 in LTC facilities, but not all counties reported.)