COVID Case Watch November 12, 2020

This graph shows confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 per 1,000 individuals in the prison and general populations in each state as of November 12, 2020. 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 31.60 per 1,000 individuals. In the prison population, the rate is 127.93 per 1,000 individuals. This means that, on average, the rate of COVID infections in prison populations is over four times the rate of COVID infections in the general population. Arkansas and Kansas continue to have a prison infection rate that is over 10 times that of the general population. 

Despite a surge of COVID cases in the general population this month, in 46 of the 50 US states, the rate of COVID infections among those imprisoned still exceeds the rate of COVID infections among the general population. In the last week, case rates have continued to increase drastically in prisons in multiple states. Case rates in prisons have increased most in Iowa, New Mexico, Utah, and Wisconsin. Iowa has seen the largest increase in case rates in the last week. The highest case rate in the state prison systems remains in South Dakota with 2,009 of its incarcerated population (529.52 per 1,000) having tested positive for COVID. 

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.