The rate of infection in city jails among inmates was 1.45% on Wednesday — more than seven times the rate of infection in New York City overall, which came in at just under 0.2%.
“COVID-19 is spreading rapidly at Rikers Island and other local jails, endangering our clients, correction staff and all of New York City,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society.
“Based on this analysis, New York City jails have become the epicenter of COVID-19,” she added. “It is imperative that Albany, City Hall, our local District Attorneys and the NYPD take swift and bold action to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus.”
The data is based on the city’s daily jail population and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. As of Wednesday morning, there were 5,169 people in city custody and 75 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said.
Those figures were compared with the number of coronavirus cases at both the city and state level. There were 16,788 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City and 26,376 cases of COVID-19 in New York State as of Wednesday morning. The state’s number jumped to 30,811 by Wednesday afternoon.
Many New Yorkers are believed to be carrying the virus but have not been tested because they are asymptomatic or due to the scarcity of test kits.
Mayor de Blasio said on Tuesday that the city is preparing to release 300 people in city custody to curb the spread of coronavirus. But Luongo and other criminal justice advocates say the city needs to expedite this process in order to save lives.
“Stop sending people to Rikers and let these New Yorkers out immediately,” Luongo said, noting that people are still being sent to city jails on new arrests. “Anything else is too little, too late.”