COVID-19 poses an unprecedented threat to a group of District of Columbia residents in the custody of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (“DOC”). In the final week of March 2020, the DOC announced five positive cases from different units in its facilities. The risk of rapid and pervasive infection is high. Indeed, the virus already appears to be spreading exponentially, from one positive test on March 25 to two positive tests on March 27, to four positive tests on March 28, and a fifth positive case on March 29.
The risk of mass contagion in the Central Detention Facility and Correctional Treatment Facility — DOC’s two interconnected jails — facilities is high, and the effects of the outbreak will be devastating. Many cases can result in horrible pain, fevers, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. More serious cases will require hospitalization, and severe cases can cause death or permanent lung and heart conditions. Among adults with preexisting medical conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes — features that disproportionately characterize incarcerated people — the hospitalization and death rates are greatly elevated.