Articles on COVID-19

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

In Philadelphia's jail, the number of COVID-19 cases has tripled in two months. In Chicago's lockup, infections have increased 11-fold. New York City jails are struggling with a 13-fold increase in less than a month. COVID-19 is once again surging behind bars, posing a renewed threat to a high-risk population with spotty access to health care and little ability to distance, reports the Marshall Project. It's unclear whether the surge is due to the highly contagious omicron variant. Still, as caseloads skyrocket and omicron becomes the dominant variant, experts worry the coronavirus is once again poised to sweep through jails and prisons. Inmates face uncertain access to booster shots, vaccine hesitancy and staffing shortfalls that have created even...

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains a public dashboard showing the status of COVID-19 in its prisons, including a tally of those who have died. This week, that number stood at 173 confirmed deaths. The dashboard links to a list of names that ends with the Jan. 19 death of a 69-year-old serving a life sentence for murder, leaving the impression that no one has died of COVID-19 at a state prison since then. That's not the case, Stateline reports . Two incarcerated patients died Oct. 6, bringing the total COVID-19 deaths in state prisons to 295, according to the Texas Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that collects its data from reports sent by corrections officials to the attorney...

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Fraternal Order of Police filed competing motions for injunctions against each other, escalating a fight over the city's vaccination policy. A Cook County judge ordered the union president to stop telling members not to comply with a city policy requiring them to inform the city of their vaccination status until Oct. 25, when she scheduled a hearing. The city alleged that John Catanzara, president of the police union, was encouraging an illegal work stoppage or strike by telling members not to let the city know their vaccination status, the Associated Press reports. T he union asked a court to stop the city from enforcing its vaccination-notification requirement, saying it amounted to an unnegotiated...

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A federal judge sentenced a Texas man to 15 months in prison for perpetrating a hoax about COVID-19. The sentence comes as the government deals with new challenges related to pandemic fraud, including online misinformation and falsified vaccine documentation, Axios reports . Christopher Charles Perez made false claims in an April 2020, Facebook post about a grocery store in San Antonio, prosecutors say. "My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked everything for past two days cause we paid him too," Perez wrote. "YOU'VE BEEN WARNED." Though the post was taken down after 16 minutes, someone anonymously submitted a screenshot of Perez's words to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center.

Perez the FBI that he had been trying to...

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Thousands of Los Angeles Police Department employees are planning to seek exemptions from getting vaccinated against the coronavirus after police officials filed a federal lawsuit against the city over its vaccine and mask mandate. About 3,000 LAPD officials are expected to seek either religious or medical exemptions ahead of the city's Oct. 5 deadline for municipal employees to be vaccinated. The vast majority of them are seeking religious exemptions. If those numbers hold up, nearly a quarter of the LAPD workforce will try to avoid the shot, the Washington Post reports. Six LAPD employees sued the city, saying the vaccine and mask mandate for city officials violates their constitutional right to privacy and due process. The suit says...

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A new study links COVID-19 deaths to mass incarceration, NPR reports. Researchers Dr. Eric Reinhart and Daniel Chen of Northwestern University and the World Bank believe that if the U.S. had done more to reduce its incarceration rate at the beginning of the pandemic, it could have prevented millions of cases. Many of these preventable cases occured in communities of color. The corrections system is an epidemic engine, driven by huge numbers of people who cycle between the cramped detention facilities and their home communities. The researchers said an 80 percent decrease in jail population could have resulted in a two percent drop in the daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases. A drop of this...

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The U.S. Education Department opened civil rights investigations into five states with prohibitions or restrictions on mask mandates in schools. The department plans to investigate whether the prohibitions discriminate against students who are at a higher risk for severe illness resulting from coronavirus by preventing them from being able to access in-person education safely. “The department has heard from parents from across the U.S., particularly parents of students with disabilities and with underlying medical conditions, about how state bans on universal indoor masking are putting their children at risk and preventing them from accessing in-person learning equally,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, reports Courthouse News Service.

The

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A Pennsylvania woman admitted coughing and spitting on food at a supermarket early in the coronavirus pandemic was sentenced Tuesday to at least a year in jail, reports the Associated Press. Margaret Ann Cirko, 37, pleaded guilty in June to a felony count of making bomb threats. Authorities said Cirko entered a Gerrity's Supermarket near Wilkes-Barre, on March 25, 2020, and purposely coughed on fresh produce and other merchandise while yelling that she had the virus and that everyone would get sick.

Joe Fasula, co-owner of the supermarket chain, said that $35,000 worth of merchandise had to be thrown out as a result of a "twisted prank." Cirko tested negative for COVID-19. Her attorney said she was...

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The coronavirus is hitting Miami-Dade's criminal justice system hard, reports the Miami Herald. In the past week, at least five South Florida police officers have died because of complications from the virus. As officials have moved to limit the number of people gathering inside courtrooms, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office says 35 employees have reported positive. In Miami-Dade jails, officials may be extending shifts to help deal with the rising number of staff members and inmates who have been infected with or been exposed to COVID-19 in the latest surge in South Florida. As of Friday, 136 employees were home quarantining. That's in addition to 188 inmates in the jail system who are positive with COVID.

The...

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New York City judges have ordered defendants to be vaccinated against COVID-19. One defendant was charged with several crimes, including drug possession and shoplifting. He was prepared to plead guilty, and prosecutors agreed. Another judge ordered vaccination for a woman seeking bail. The cases raise important questions about the line between civic responsibility and civil liberties, reports the New York Times. Experts disagreed on whether the orders were justified, or whether or one or both could represent an overstep. In one case, Judge Jeffrey Zimmerman of the Bronx County criminal court said defendant William Gregory was accused of crimes that showed he had placed his own interest above others’.

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Protesters descended on the Hawaii lieutenant governor 's condo, yelling at him through bullhorns and beaming strobe lights into the building to harass him over vaccine requirements. A California parent barged into his daughter's elementary school and punched a teacher in the face over mask rules. A Texas a parent ripped a mask off a teacher's face in a "Meet the Teacher" event. A Missouri hospital leader was approached in a parking garage by a man from Alabama who handed him papers accusing him of "crimes against humanity. School board members, county commissioners, doctors and local leaders are confronted with angry taunts that compare them to the Taliban, Nazis, Marxists and the leaders of Japanese internment camps, the Associated...

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New York City police officials, confronting a lagging vaccination rate among officers as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise, warned officers that they would discipline unvaccinated personnel who do not wear masks while on duty, reports the New York Times. The policy was announced less than a month before a city mandate takes effect requiring city workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing. Mayor Bill de Blasio issued the mandate in a bid to encourage vaccination and thwart a new wave of the pandemic triggered by the more contagious Delta variant. The order, covers more than 340,000 municipal employees, including police officers.

Several other cities have issued similar requirements that...

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Major California law enforcement agencies are reporting COVID-19 vaccination rates significantly lower than those of the general population, and seven state prisons have disclosed that less than a third of their officers are vaccinated, The Guardian reports. The newspaper requested vaccine data from police departments in California’s 20 largest cities and the top 10 largest sheriff’s departments state and reviewed reports from the state department of corrections and rehabilitation (CDCR). The majority of police and sheriffs’ departments declined to share statistics, but those that replied appeared to have vaccination rates that were markedly lower than their surrounding communities, raising significant public health concerns as the coronavirus Delta variant surges and lawmakers debate...

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigators have identified between 50 and 75 scammers and other brokers offering access to COVID-19 vaccines to dozens of countries, the Wall Street Journal reports . Some nations have negotiated contracts before realizing they were dealing with criminal organizations and calling off the deals. Investigators do not know if any of the scams succeeded.

Many governments are desperate for vaccines because of limited supply. International law-enforcement officials and a security expert said they are concerned that limited vaccine supply in some countries could prompt government officials to unwittingly sign bogus contracts. Homeland Security Investigations’ National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, and its partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, has more than a dozen investigations into...

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Public health experts say arriving migrants at the southern border of the U.S. are not driving rising COVID-19 infections in this country, contrary to claims by some governors and commentators, the Associated Press and NPR reported. Migrants who are allowed to enter are generally tested for the virus and quarantined in hotel rooms if they test positive, though federal authorities have not made data available about such cases.

High numbers of border crossings are straining social services in some regions and unvaccinated migrants pose a risk of spreading the virus, just as other unvaccinated people do. But migrants have been shown to be no sicker than the rest of the U.S. population. "The positivity rate in...

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