COVID Case Watch November 5, 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 5, 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 28.84 per 1,000 individuals. In the prison population, the rate is 119.7 per 1,000 individuals. This means that, on average, the rate of COVID infections in prison populations is 4.15 times the rate of COVID infections in the general population. Arkansas, Kansas, and Vermont 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 exceeds the rate of COVID infections among the general population. In the last week, case rates have continued to increase drastically in prisons in the Midwest, specifically in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The highest case rate in the state prison systems is now in South Dakota with 1,801 of its incarcerated population (474.70 per 1,000) having tested positive for COVID. There has also been a recent large increase in case rates in prisons in Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, and Utah. 

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.