COVID-19 Justice

Michigan prisons nearing “herd immunity”

COVID has swept through Michigan's prison populations, but new variants could mean more suffering to come.

If you are a prisoner in Michigan, you are more likely than not to contract COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, 12 of Michigan’s prison have reported over 75% infection rates. Almost 62% of the 40,603 prisoners tested for the coronavirus have come up positive.

While horrifying, it has provided a venue for testing the theory of “herd immunity” – the idea that the spread of the virus can be controlled by allowing it to spread unfettered until a majority of the population has been infected.

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That testing has run up against a roadblock – namely, new variants of the coronavirus that threaten to upend efforts to contain it.

Last week, state officials announced that 90 people at a prison in Ionia County had tested positive for a new strain of the coronavirus – B.1.1.7, also known as the U.K. variant.

B.1.1.7 is estimated to be 50% more contagious than the dominant strains of the virus in the U.S. and scientists are still working to figure out whether people who have already had COVID-19 can be reinfected.

Vaccination is one way of protecting against COVID-19 and its variants, but so far prison inmates haven’t been on the vaccine priority list.

You can read the full story on MLive.

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