NYUJ TESTING UPDATE: New Analysis Shows 232 New Positive Cases and One Death in New York Prisons

Coalition Calls for Data Transparency and Improved Testing to Address Rising COVID-19 Positive Cases in NY Facilities

On the heels of over 230 new positive COVID-19 cases in New York State prisons over a five-day period, New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) is calling on the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to improve their testing practices and release a publicly available plan for mass testing of its correctional facilities.

NYUJ’s latest analysis of DOCCS’ data showed an increase of 232 new positive tests between Dec. 14 – 18 (DOCCS’ inadequate reporting prevented NYUJ from providing an estimated test count in this week’s analysis). DOCCS has seen an increase of 557 new COVID cases since Dec. 1. In addition, DOCCS reported one new death of an incarcerated individual at Woodbourne Correctional Facility, which is currently experiencing an outbreak. There are currently 23 DOCCS facilities with active COVID-19 cases.

This week, DOCCS is set to implement a new asymptomatic surveillance testing plan that will test a number of individuals not showing any COVID-19 symptoms from multiple facilities every weekday. An agency spokesperson also said that DOCCS data reporting will now reflect the number of tests rather than the people who have been tested. Read NYUJ’s recent letter that was submitted to Acting DOCCS Commissioner Anthony Annucci to provide more clarity on their data collection and reporting practices.

“The recent outbreaks and tragic death are a direct result of DOCCS’ failure to take mass testing and COVID-19 safety protocols seriously,” said Alexander Horwitz, Executive Director of NYUJ. “DOCCS must take full responsibility for their failed approach and take the steps necessary to prevent further harm to the incarcerated individuals whose care and rehabilitation they are entrusted with. NYUJ will be closely following DOCCS’ ability to implement its new testing plan and data reporting, while continually advocating for the health and safety of incarcerated individuals.”

NYUJ, along with countless other organizations, has called on DOCCS for a publicly available COVID-19 plan since March and the agency has failed to respond.

Methodology & Definition of Terms

Full analysis of DOCCS’ testing data can be viewed here

Analysis from New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) is based on publicly available data reported by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). Unlike many states, which report total numbers of tests, DOCCS COVID-19 reporting is limited to the status of individuals who received COVID-19 tests.

The chart in the link above, derived from DOCCS’ limited publicly disclosed data, therefore shows an estimated number of new COVID-19 tests based on that data. The estimated number of tests reflects the change in pending tests day-over-day after taking into account net changes in both total positive and total negative tests.

Change in positive cases: The change in reported individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 during date range.

Change in negative cases: The change in reported individuals who tested negative for COVID-19 between date range. NOTE: Because DOCCS reports the status of individuals and not tests, a decrease in negatives between Day 1 and Day 2 is reported as 0 since those individuals should be represented by an increase in the total positive. Leaving as negative would cause an under-reporting of total tests. 

Total new test results: The total sum of changes in positive and negative cases.

Estimated new tests: Day 2’s pending test total subtracted by the difference between Day 1’s pending number and the total new test results between Day 1 and Day 2. 

[Pending results in Day 2] – ([Pending results in Day 1] – [New test results between Day 1 and Day 2])

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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.