COVID-19 Case Watch January 20-21, 2021

This graph shows confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 per 1,000 individuals in the prison populations in each state as of January 21, 2021 and general populations in each state as of January 20, 2021. The left side (orange) refers to the prison population and the right side (blue) refers to the general population.

The rate of COVID in the general population is 69.09 per 1,000 individuals. In the prison population, the rate is 249.69 per 1,000 individuals. On average, the rate of COVID infections in prison populations is almost 3.6 times the rate of COVID infections in the general population. Hawaii and Michigan continue to have prison infection rates that are over 10 times that of the state general population. 

Despite the continued surge of COVID cases in the general population, in 47 of the 50 US states, the rate of COVID infections among those imprisoned still exceeds the rate of COVID infections among the general population. The three states with a higher COVID rate in the general population continue to be in the Deep South: Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. In the last week, case rates have continued to increase drastically in prisons in multiple states. The largest increase in prison population case rates in the last week occurred in Nevada. Last week, 2,612 individuals in its prison population of 12,127 had tested positive and by January 21st, 4,491 had. Case rates in prisons have also increased drastically in Kentucky, New York, and Pennsylvania. The highest case rate in the state prison systems remains in Michigan with 23,739 of its incarcerated population (641.94 per 1,000) having tested positive for COVID. Over half of the state’s prison population has tested positive for COVID in Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, and South Dakota. 

Importantly, states have varying testing strategies within prisons and for their general population, indicating that these rates likely reflect a falsely low disease incidence with some states’ rates being more accurate than others.