Stanford works with California prisons to test and prevent COVID-19

As the world’s greatest minds focus their energies and resources on combating COVID-19, there is a growing population of underrecognized victims — the infected men and women incarcerated in frequently overcrowded prisons and local jails.

A $1 million gift from the Horowitz Family Foundation allows Stanford researchers to work on reducing the spread of COVID-19 among the incarcerated and inform mitigation strategies in other high-density living situations.

Among the more than 115,000 individuals currently held in California prisons, outbreaks of COVID-19 infection have continued to escalate in some facilities. With an average prison cell measuring just 6 by 8 feet, and often shared by more than one adult, social distancing and careful hygiene practices — the very prevention strategies used to curb the spread of the disease in communities worldwide — are difficult to implement and maintain.

A team at Stanford Medicine has established a project to help inform COVID-19-related public health policy to protect and improve the health of incarcerated people as part of the SC-COSMO collaboration. In California, this project is working directly with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Through a $1 million gift from the Horowitz Family Foundation, Stanford Medicine established a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to support research and prevention strategies to slow and eventually stop the spread of COVID-19 infection in California prisons and jails.

The project team from Stanford has begun working with medical teams inside the prisons and jails in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to map out the best strategies to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among inmates. This effort will include COVID-19 testing of all men and women at the time of incarceration, in addition to screening a portion of those already incarcerated, with periodic retesting to assess new infections.

The study team is also conducting mathematical modeling of the rates and patterns of transmission in correctional facilities to inform policies for containment.

Read the full article on the Stanford Health Policy website.