NYUJ TESTING UPDATE: COVID-19 CASES IN ELMIRA SKYROCKET TO NEARLY 50% POSITIVITY RATE AS DOCCS CONTINUES LAGGARD TESTING APPROACH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 26, 2020 
Contact: Jessica Floyd | JFloyd@Skdknick.com | 

NYUJ TESTING UPDATE: COVID-19 CASES IN ELMIRA SKYROCKET TO NEARLY 50% POSITIVITY RATE AS DOCCS CONTINUES LAGGARD TESTING APPROACH

New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Experiences Increase of 404 Positive Cases in Elmira Since Last Week — Positive Rates Rise to 42%

NEW YORK – This week the Elmira Correctional Facility announced it found an additional 448 COVID-19 cases through testing. This comes on the heels of the facility experiencing an outbreak just last week. So far, the prison has a 42% positive rate among completed tests. The cases in Elmira bring the statewide total positives in DOCCS facilities to 1,434 among the incarcerated population and 1,455 among staff. Following this news, New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) today called on New York State to execute a new COVID-19 strategy in DOCCS. As we see this week, outbreaks like this are inevitable. For too long, DOCCS has relied on so-called targeted diagnostic testing in its facilities, which by definition excludes asymptomatic cases that are nevertheless contagious. Moreover, diagnostic test results older than two weeks are stymie for any serious effort to flatten the curve in prions. We know the incubation period of the disease and the sensitivity threshold of the tests create a need for rapid and mass testing of incarcerated New Yorkers and corrections staff as well as mass antibody testing to track the virus’ impact to date. DOCCS’ failure to routinely test all incarcerated New Yorkers has placed the agency in dire need of  following negative diagnostic results with antibody testing.

Diagnostic tests to all incarcerated individuals within a two week period continued on a rolling basis, antibody testing, and a reduction of the incarcerated population to promote social distancing throughout the department are the only means for DOCCS to begin to manage these outbreaks. As we approach the upcoming flu season, DOCCS has a worrying shortage of vaccines. An outbreak of both the flu and COVID-19 within a single prison would have disastrous consequences for incarcerated New Yorkers and surrounding communities.

New Yorkers United for Justice has called for not only a mass testing since March, but a publicly disclosed plan to prevent the spread of coronavirus in correctional facilities and the statewide criminal justice system.

COVID Cases Among Incarcerated Individuals and Correctional Staff
Updated on October 26, 2020

Prison System (Accessed  Oct 26, 2020) Incarcerated Positive Staff Positive Incarcerated Individual to Staff COVID ratio # of Tests for incarcerated population
Alabama 501 443 1.13 5,257
California 15,380 4,242 3.63 99,101
Delaware 559 193 2.90 N/A
Federal BOP 16,784 2,136 7.86 67,411
Florida 16,605 3,400 4.88 82,825
Georgia 2,033 984 2.07 N/A
Illinois 2,250 1,107 2.03 N/A
Indiana 1,450 557 2.60 7,370
Iowa 1,255 184 6.82 19,578
Kansas 3,248 393 8.26 N/A
Louisiana 2,409 518 4.65 6,788
Michigan 6,599 791 8.34 183,645
Missouri 3,226 1,061 3.04 48,471
Nevada 28 152 0.18 12,368
New Jersey 2,925 1,059 2.76 Phase 3 testing, testing all individuals who tested negative in Phase 2.
New York 1,434 1,455 0.99 25,321
Ohio 6,797 1,421 4.78 37,262
Oregon 1,225 294 4.17 8,330
Pennsylvania 645 422 1.53 19,732
South Carolina 2,330 514 4.53 N/A
Texas* 21,695 4,749 4.57 205,284
Vermont 55 23 2.39 2,031
Wisconsin 3,279 783 4.19 49,678

*Departments have not updated data since last report.

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About New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ):
New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition comprised of local and national non-profit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal justice reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal justice system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.