criminal justice, Healthcare, Social Problems

‘Jails Are Petri Dishes’: Inmates Freed as the Virus Spreads Behind Bars.

Some jails are releasing people to stem outbreaks, but critics say it is not happening quickly enough to save lives and resources.

By Timothy Williams, Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum March 30, 2020

The coronavirus is spreading quickly in America’s jails and prisons, where social distancing is impossible and sanitizer is widely banned, prompting authorities across the country to release thousands of inmates in recent weeks to try to slow the infection, save lives and preserve medical resources.

Hundreds of Covid-19 diagnoses have been confirmed at local, state and federal correctional facilities — almost certainly an undercount, given a lack of testing and the virus’s rapid spread — leading to hunger strikes in immigrant detention centers and demands for more protection from prison employee unions.

A week ago, the Cook County jail in Chicago had two diagnoses; by Sunday, 101 inmates and a dozen employees had tested positive for the virus. A nearby Illinois state prison reported a coronavirus-related death on Monday, and Michigan prisons had 78 positive tests. The Rikers Island jail complex in New York City had 167 confirmed cases among inmates by Monday. And at least 38 inmates and employees in the federal prison system have the virus, with one prisoner dead in Louisiana.

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democracy, Elections, politics, Social Problems, Wisconsin

Inside Wisconsin’s Election Mess: Thousands of Missing or Nullified Ballots As Wisconsin scrambled to expand voting by mail for its election on Tuesday, many absentee voters said their ballots went undelivered.

By Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul April 9, 2020

Three tubs of absentee ballots that never reached voters were discovered in a postal center outside Milwaukee. At least 9,000 absentee ballots requested by voters were never sent, and others recorded as sent were never received. Even when voters did return their completed ballots in the mail, thousands were postmarked too late to count — or not at all.

Cracks in Wisconsin’s vote-by-mail operation are now emerging after the state’s scramble to expand that effort on the fly for voters who feared going to the polls in Tuesday’s elections. The takeaways — that the election network and the Postal Service were pushed to the brink of their capabilities, and that mistakes were clearly made — are instructive for other states if they choose to broaden vote-by-mail methods without sufficient time, money and planning.

More than 860,000 completed absentee ballots had been returned by Tuesday, already a record for Wisconsin spring elections. But for thousands of other voters, who never received their ballots, there was only one recourse: putting their health at risk and defying a stay-at-home order to vote in person during the coronavirus pandemic. Many chose not to show up.

Federal health officials have suggested that expanding voting by mail could help reduce crowds at polling places and therefore make elections safer amid the outbreak. The issues that have arisen in Wisconsin offer a warning for other states of the potential pitfalls of a rapid, last-minute expansion of absentee balloting, particularly one marred by a flurry of court challenges and 11th-hour rulings that created confusion and chaos.

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democracy, Elections, Social Problems, Wisconsin

Why Republicans Are So Afraid of Vote-by-Mail?

Public health officials recommend absentee ballots to keep people safe. But President Trump and his party, without evidence, portray expanded voting measures as ripe for fraud.

By Jim Rutenberg, Maggie Haberman and Nick Corasaniti April 8, 2020

President Trump and his Republican allies are launching an aggressive strategy to fight what many of the administration’s own health officials view as one of the most effective ways to make voting safer amid the deadly spread of Covid-19: the expanded use of mail-in ballots. The scene Tuesday of Wisconsinites in masks and gloves gathering in long lines to vote, after Republicans sued to defeat extended, mail-in ballot deadlines, did not deter the president and top officials in his party. Republican leaders said they were pushing ahead to fight state-level statutes that could expand absentee balloting in Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona and elsewhere. In New Mexico, Republicans are battling an effort to go to a mail-in-only primary, and they vowed on Wednesday to fight a new move to expand postal balloting in Minnesota.

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Healthcare, Race, Social Problems, Wisconsin

Early Data Shows African Americans Have Contracted and Died of Coronavirus at an Alarming Rate

No, the coronavirus is not an “equalizer.” Black people are being infected and dying at higher rates. Here’s what Milwaukee is doing about it — and why governments need to start releasing data on the race of COVID-19 patients.

by Akilah Johnson and Talia Buford April 3, 1:21 p.m.

Is the United States Prepared for COVID-19? The coronavirus entered Milwaukee from a white, affluent suburb. Then it took root in the city’s black community and erupted. As public health officials watched cases rise in March, too many in the community shrugged off warnings. Rumors and conspiracy theories proliferated on social media, pushing the bogus idea that black people are somehow immune to the disease. And much of the initial focus was on international travel, so those who knew no one returning from Asia or Europe were quick to dismiss the risk.

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African-Americans, Healthcare, poverty, Race, Stratification, Wisconsin

Opinion: Social Distancing Is a Privilege. The idea that this virus is an equal-opportunity killer must itself be killed.

By Charles M. Blow Opinion Columnist April 5, 2020

People like to say that the coronavirus is no respecter of race, class or country, that the disease Covid-19 is mindless and will infect anybody it can. In theory, that is true. But, in practice, in the real world, this virus behaves like others, screeching like a heat-seeking missile toward the most vulnerable in society. And this happens not because it prefers them, but because they are more exposed, more fragile and more ill. What the vulnerable portion of society looks like varies from country to country, but in America, that vulnerability is highly intersected with race and poverty.

Early evidence from cities and states already shows that black people are disproportionately affected by the virus in devastating ways. As ProPublica reported, in Milwaukee County, Wis., as of Friday morning, 81 percent of the deaths were black people. Black people make up only 26 percent of that county.

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African-Americans, Healthcare, Race, Social Problems

Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States. Data on race and the coronavirus is too limited to draw sweeping conclusions, experts say, but disparate rates of sickness — and death — have emerged in some places. A suspected coronavirus patient was taken into Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx last week.

By John Eligon, Audra D. S. Burch, Dionne Searcey and Richard A. Oppel Jr. April 7, 2020

The coronavirus is infecting and killing black people in the United States at disproportionately high rates, according to data released by several states and big cities, highlighting what public health researchers say are entrenched inequalities in resources, health and access to care. The statistics are preliminary and much remains unknown because most cities and states are not reporting race as they provide numbers of confirmed cases and fatalities. Initial indications from a number of places, though, are alarming enough that policymakers say they must act immediately to stem potential devastation in black communities. The worrying trend is playing out across the country, among people born in different decades and working far different jobs.

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poverty, Social Problems, Social Safety Net

‘Never Seen Anything Like It’: Cars Line Up for Miles at Food Banks Millions are flooding a charitable system that was never intended to handle a nationwide crisis. Army and Air Force National Guard soldiers packed food boxes at the Nourish Pierce County food bank in Tacoma, Wash., last week. Army and Air Force National Guard soldiers packed food boxes at the Nourish Pierce County food bank in Tacoma, Wash., last week.

By Nicholas Kulish April 8, 2020

In Omaha, a food pantry that typically serves as few as 100 people saw 900 show up on a single day. In Jonesboro, Ark., after a powerful tornado struck, a food bank received less than half the donations it expected because nervous families held on to what they had. And in Washington State and Louisiana, the National Guard has been called in to help pack food boxes and ensure that the distributions run smoothly. Demand for food assistance is rising at an extraordinary rate, just as the nation’s food banks are being struck by shortages of both donated food and volunteer workers.

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criminal justice, Healthcare, Social Problems

Chicago’s Jail Is Top U.S. Hot Spot as Virus Spreads Behind Bars At least 1,324 confirmed coronavirus cases are tied to prisons and jails across the United States, according to data tracked by The Times, including at least 32 deaths. Prisoners hung signs pleading for help in a window of the Cook County jail on Tuesday.

By Timothy Williams and Danielle Ivory April 8, 2020

It started small. On March 23, two inmates in the sprawling Cook County jail, one of the nation’s largest, were placed in isolation cells after testing positive for the coronavirus. In a little over two weeks, the virus exploded behind bars, infecting more than 350 people. The jail in Chicago is now the nation’s largest-known source of coronavirus infections, according to data compiled by The New York Times, with more confirmed cases than the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., or the cluster centered on New Rochelle, N.Y.

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Healthcare, inequality, poverty, Race, Social Problems

Virus Is Twice as Deadly for Black and Latino People Than Whites in N.Y.C. Officials revealed that disparity on Wednesday as they announced that 779 more people in the state had died of the virus, the second straight day that deaths spiked to new highs. Another 779 people in New York State died of the virus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported on Wednesday, the second straight day that deaths have spiked to new highs. Another 779 people in New York State died of the virus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported on Wednesday, the second straight day that deaths have spiked to new highs. By Jeffery C. Mays and Andy Newman April 8, 2020 The coronavirus is killing black and Latino people in New York City at twice the rate that it is killing white people, according to preliminary data released on Wednesday by the city. The disparity reflected longstanding and persistent economic inequalities and differences in access to health care, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday morning. “There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city,” Mr. de Blasio said. “The truth is that in so many ways the negative effects of coronavirus — the pain it’s causing, the death it’s causing — tracks with other profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades.”

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