David Desiderato, of Granby, stands with a sign to ask to release prison inmates at risk of coronavirus. “It’s called corrections, but it has the attitude of warehouses,” he said about correctional centers. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
David Desiderato, of Granby, stands with a sign to ask to release prison inmates at risk of coronavirus. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

The Dec. 4 edition of The CT Mirror reported the unfortunate death of an inmate in Somers from COVID-19 infection. This marked the ninth COVID-related death of a prisoner in our state since the start of the pandemic. The morbidity and mortality from this infection has been devastating both nationally and locally, and there are legitimate debates about how distribution of the anticipated COVID-19 vaccines should prioritized.

Among the factors informing these decisions are the disease-specific infection and mortality rates for different populations at risk.
The current prison population in Connecticut, according the Department of Corrections website, is approximately 9,200 which represents a 26% reduction since the beginning of the pandemic. Thus, the COVID-19 related mortality rate for  prisoners is slightly less than one per 1,000 which is significantly lower that the state-wide mortality rate of 1.39 per thousand.

In comparison, the mortality rate for residents in Connecticut’s long-term care facilities since the start of the pandemic has been approximately 175 per thousand (more than 100 times greater than overall in Connecticut. Infection rates in the prison population are significantly higher than the general population, but this data is difficult to use for comparison purposes since the Department of Corrections conducts routine surveillance screening.

All of our populations deserve timely and effective health care, which will soon include vaccination against COVID-19. The above mortality risks will be an important (but not the only) determinant of which groups are offered protection early in the program roll-out.

Victor Herson MD is a retired physician from Bloomfield.

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