Coronavirus deaths in U.S. prisons have reportedly increased by 73 percent since mid-May, resulting in a total of more than 600 virus-related prison deaths during the pandemic.
The infection rates in prisons and jails in the country have jumped in recent weeks as the rate remains relatively stable nationwide, The New York Times reported Tuesday, adding that the number of prison inmates confirmed to be infected has doubled in the past month to more than 65,000.
Prison officials across the country have responded differently to the crisis, the Times noted, with several saying they are using trial-and-error methods to determine the best procedures.
“If there was clearly a right strategy, we all would have done it,” Owen Murray, a University of Texas Medical Branch physician who oversees health care at dozens of Texas prisons, told the newspaper. “There is no clear-cut right strategy here. There are a lot of different choices that one could make that are going to be in-the-moment decisions.”
Prisoners fear their lack of protections could lead them to contract or die from COVID-19, according to the Times.
The five largest known clusters of the virus domestically are within corrections institutions instead of nursing homes or meatpacking plants, the newspaper noted. Within other sectors like the meat processing industry, plants have been closed for more intensive cleaning, and in nursing homes, testing has increased, in efforts to avoid large outbreaks, it added.
The rising numbers come at a time when protesters across the country are calling for police reform following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. Several protesters have been arrested and put in holding cells within jails that are already struggling to fight the pandemic.