Updated: After the publication of this article, it was reported that one inmate at the Trousdale prison in Tennessee has died of COVID-19. Six others have been hospitalized, and one of them is in serious condition. 1 out of 1,300 is a remarkably low fatality rate. The inmate who died was reportedly 67 years old. The original article is below.
Lots of cases, very small number of deaths. That is how this virus works on all but the elderly and sick. The perfect case study? Prisons.
The ACLU is demanding that all prisoners be released because they might catch the insanely deadly virus COVID-19 and all die. Well, in fact, the ACLU is more correct than they realize, so much so that they are completely wrong. It’s true that SARS-CoV-2 spreads like wildfire in a confined population, but that horse has already left the barn. It is likely that hundreds of thousands of prisoners have contracted the virus, most are asymptomatic, and only a decimal of a decimal die. Thus, the fact that it has spread far and wide actually demonstrates that this is not the bubonic plague many people think it is, so long as you shield the most vulnerable people.
In what should be a national headline, the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, Tennessee, tested every single inmate and found that out of 2,444 tests, 1,299 inmates tested positive. That is 53% of the inmates! Among the staff, it was 50 out of 281, with a few more pending results. Here’s the kicker: 98% were asymptomatic!
It is, therefore, quite evident that this virus has been spreading for quite some time in this prison, and yet nobody has died: Not one person out of over 1,300 staff and inmates infected.
Numerous serology study results have been extrapolated to show that when you account for the true number of people who have gotten this virus, the infection fatality rate drops to 0.1%-0.3%. And the deaths are very lopsided among the elderly and chronically ill, which indicates that younger and healthier people have an even lower risk of dying from COVID-19 – perhaps even 1 in 3,000, depending on the age or health status.
This latest case study from Tennessee proves the point. Many media pseudo-academics have cast doubt on the accuracy of serology tests and using them to extrapolate for the broader population. But there is no better case study than a prison, where you can test the entirety of an isolated population and get exact percentages.
We are seeing this across all state and federal prisons. It’s basic math. For example, we know that 70 percent of the roughly 2,700 federal inmates who got tested for COVID-19 were positive. There are 146,000 federal inmates in total. How many of those have the virus? We don’t know yet, but after the virus has been spreading for months in close confinement, that number has to be enormous.
According to Rep. Fred Keller, 33 federal inmates have died from the virus. If 70 percent of this confined and defined universe had the virus, that would mean the fatality rate is a remarkable 0.03 percent. But even if we assume only 20 percent of the total federal prison population had the virus, which is roughly in line with the rate in other confined environments, such as the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the Diamond Princess cruise ship (and in line with the staff infection rate in the Tennessee prison), it would still be a fatality rate of just 0.1%, or 1 in 1,000.
But it’s very likely the ratio of those infected is much higher. According to Reuters, a recent tally of 3,277 inmates in state prison systems in Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia who had tested positive for the virus showed that 96 percent of those who tested positive were asymptomatic.
Most federal prisoners are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s (80% are under 50), so it makes sense for their fatality rate to be under that of the macro numbers (0.1-0.3%) we are seeing from the serology tests.
According to the Marshal Project, 187 prisoners have died from the virus in state prisons. There are roughly 1.2 million state prisoners across the country. Again, if just 20 percent of them have the virus, that would be a 0.08% fatality rate nationwide in state prisons. If we use the 53% infection rate in the Tennessee prison and extrapolate nationally, that would be an infection fatality rate of 0.03%. In one women’s prison in Louisiana, 75% tested positive.
While the median age of state prisoners is roughly the same as the national median (38), there are significantly fewer seniors. Roughly 16% of the general population is over 65, while just 2.2% of state prisoners and 2.8% of federal prisoners are over that age. Just 10% of the state prison population is over 55, compared to 29% of the general population.
Thus, if anything, the hard data from prisons seems to show that the fatality rate, extrapolated for the general population, is actually correct and that if you isolate the numbers for younger adults, the numbers are even lower.
Similarly, not a single detainee in ICE detention facilities has died, despite the fact that 60 percent are testing positive.
The government is doing everything it can to obscure the fatality rate and muddle the separation of risk levels so that we can’t better target and prioritize the quarantine. But by hook or by crook, we will find out the truth from an unlikely source, thanks to aggressive ACLU efforts to empty the prisons and ICE detention facilities. The mass hysteria over coronavirus for the entire population might just burn itself out as the truth hits the fan in the nation’s prisons.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.