As coronavirus restrictions in the US are loosened, public health officials and state leaders have urged residents to continue practicing social distancing in order to prevent another spike in cases.
But Americans in prisons and nursing homes often don’t have that option. In some states, those facilities make up a startling number of coronavirus cases.
Across federal and state prisons, thousands of inmates have tested positive for the virus – many of whom showed no symptoms when they were infected. In Ohio, more than 20% of the people infected with coronavirus are prisoners. And in Colorado, the state’s largest outbreak is in a correctional facility.
The numbers are similarly harrowing in nursing homes and are facilities across the country.
In Louisiana, more than 30% of the state’s coronavirus deaths are nursing home residents. In New Hampshire, long-term care facility residents make up nearly 80% of the state’s cases.
“Nursing homes have been ground zero for Covid-19,” Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said last month.
Officials across states have pushed to ramp up testing in both correctional facilities and nursing homes in hopes of catching up to the widespread numbers as family members stuck outside and separated from their loved ones wait for updates.
In one state, half of all cases are in prisons and nursing homes
In Arkansas, almost half of all of the state’s cases are in prisons and nursing homes.
More than 1,000 inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to Dr. Nate Smith, the Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, and 876 of them are in a single correctional facility.
A total of 261 nursing home residents and 148 staff members have also been infected, with at least 32 deaths in the state connected to the facilities.
Arkansas has reported a total of 3,611 cases and 87 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
And in Ohio, people behind bars make up 20% of the state’s total infections.
More than 4,300 inmates have tested positive for the virus in total, according to data from the state’s department of corrections. Ohio has recorded at least 21,576 cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
More than 2,100 Ohio inmates are currently positive – 1,353 of whom are housed in a single facility, according to the corrections department data. At least 40 inmates have died.
More than 480 staff members are also positive and two have died.
“The reason that you are seeing numbers out of our prisons, that are much, much higher than other places is because we made a decision to go test everybody. And when we’ve got a hotspot we move in and we’ve surged testing in,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said late last month.
Largest outbreak in Colorado is a prison
In Colorado, the state’s largest hotspot is the Sterling Correctional Facility, which according to state data has reported 262 positive results – about 10% of the facility’s total inmate population.
Corrections officials tested more than 400 inmates last month after eight were initially found to be infected.
“Given the insidious nature of this virus we had suspected that despite seeing a relatively low number of inmates with symptoms, the number of positives was potentially much higher,” Department of Corrections Executive Director Dean Williams said when the widespread testing was first ordered in late April.
In a news release this month, the state’s department of corrections said that since mid-April inmates in the facility have been required to remain in their cells and can only leave to use the restroom or shower. Meals and medications are also delivered to the living units.
The next largest outbreak, with 84 cases, is also a prison in Denver.
Colorado has reported more than 17,830 cases and at least 919 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
80% of New Hampshire deaths in nursing homes
New Hamshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette said Wednesday that while the state has begun seeing its community transmission, illness rates and hospitalizations start to level out or decline, the trend has not been the same in long-term care facilities.
“Based on our numbers in long-term care to date, we took some very aggressive action early on and I think at this point it’s time to take further steps to address some of the long term care testing issues,” Shibinette said. “To date, we have tested over 1,000 nursing home residents across the state, which is a great number, we want to test more.”
About 111 people have died in New Hampshire – 78% of whom were people associated with long-term care facility outbreaks, Shibinette said.
“I’m upset,” says Andrew Delisle, whose mom died in one of the state’s nursing homes, according to CNN affiliate WMUR.
“Do I think it could’ve been prevented? Probably. Would it have been inevitable? The way things have spread and the way things are going on, it may have. I think there’s going to be a lot of soul searching.”
Shibinette said the state was rolling out a new plan for long-term care facilities in which, every week, the state will randomly select about 10% of its facilities and ask for swabs from 10% of the residents. The state’s goal is to offer testing to all long-term care and nursing home staff members every seven to 10 days.
In Louisiana, more than 30% of the state’s deaths come from nursing home residents.
On Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that 688 nursing home residents had died and an additional 50 deaths were reported among residents of other adult residential facilities.
Louisiana has recorded 30,399 cases and 2,167 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Half of New Jersey deaths in long-term care facilities
New Jersey’s care facilities have also been hard hit.
More than 50% of the state’s deaths come from long-term care facilities, according to data posted by the New Jersey Department of Health.
On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he spoke with the National Guard over the possibility of using non-medical members to assist nursing homes.
Those duties will include taking on janitorial, kitchen, security, logistics and general purpose roles, state officials said.
“We’re asking for medical assistance, and that they would work under a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse, help with site testing, janitorial, cooking, meal service, family communication, administrative work, security, logistics, such as making sure that supplies and equipment are where they need to be, and then general purpose,” Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli said Monday.
“We’ve been on the phone and working with the General and his team all weekend and throughout today, so we hope to have something more positive in the next several days, but they’ve been more than wanting to help out. It’s just to make sure that we put them in the right spots,” Persichilli added.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch, Jamie Gumbrecht, Kay Jones, Andy Rose, Dave Alsup, Rebekah Riess, and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.