COVID Reinfection in Federal Prisons and Compassionate Release

Evidence about COVID-19 reinfection is starting to appear. Find out more about what this means for federal inmates here.

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Evidence about COVID-19 reinfection is starting to appear. CNN has three stories of individuals who appear to have been reinfected with COVID-19. It is time to examine how compassionate release should be used in federal prisons.

Nevada Man Reinfected with Covid per CNN and the Lancet

CNN reported that a Nevada man appeared infected with two different strains of COVID-19. He was first diagnosed in April after he “had a sore throat, cough, headache, nausea and diarrhea.” He recovered in late April of 2020 and had two negative tests afterward.

Then he sought care for “fever, headahe, dizziness, cough, nausea and diarrhea. He was hospitalized and on ongoing oxygen support. He tested again for COVID-19 and the results were positive. The analysis of the specimens suggested that he had two distinct viral infections. A medical study surrounding this case was also published in the Medical Journal The Lancet.

Hong Kong Man Becomes First Known COVID-19 Reinfection

The same CNN story mentions a Hong Kong man reinfected with COVID-19. Doctors found him infected with two strains of the virus 142 days apart. During the second infection, he had no obvious symptoms.

Dutch Woman Dies After Second Covid Infection

CNN also tracked the story of a Dutch woman that died after reinfection with COVID-19. She was first admitted to the hospital with severe cough and fever and tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital discharged her five days later. However, 59 days later she developed fever, cough and difficulty breathing. She tested positive for COVID-19. Tests revealed no antibodies found from her previous infection. She passed away from her illness after a three-week bout.

The Impact of Covid Reinfection in Federal Prisons

Both incarcerated persons and staff are still testing positive for COVID-19. The structural problems that lead to high rates of infection are still present. These include the inability to physically distance inmates from each other and lack of PPE. Incarcerated persons are still dying from the disease.

We have some reports from incarcerated persons tell us that BOP guards and other staff have told them that “all the inmates are going to get [COVID-19] anyway,” insinuating an unofficial herd immunity experiment. Without appropriate testing, tracing, isolation, and medical care, this could lead to disastrous results. But who in the Bureau of Prisons knows or understands the potential for reinfection?

How many people outside of prison have been reinfected asymptomatically, did not know it, and passed it on to others? How many people have been reinfected with a mild case and did not seek medical attention believing that they were fine? And if that is the case for them, how do we know that it hasn’t happened inside the walls of the prisons?

In many situations we have heard of individuals who have passed out or gone unconscious while in BOP custody for a myriad of illnesses. In those situations we have been told that BOP staff did nothing, insinuating that they had overdosed on drugs. What if that has happened or will happen to someone with a COVID-19 reinfection? Has the BOP staff reviewed and followed protocol based on science?

The Lancet Article Should Serve as Exhibit A to your Compassionate Release Motion

As we have stated before, Compassionate Release is the best option for a person concerned about COVID-19 infection or reinfection. Consider attaching a personal statement about what you have heard or seen from the BOP staff about infection or reinfection risk along with the science from the Lancet article as an attached exhibit and links to the above CNN stories as footnotes. It is up to the claimant (in this case, the incarcerated person) to present the evidence that they believe will assist the claim (in this case, the risk of COVID-19 infection or reinfection). Our office can assist. Please contact our office to discuss your case.