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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department's inspector general is remotely assessing federal prisons to determine whether the coronavirus is being properly mitigated, according to the watchdog's website.

The big picture: Federal and state prisons have acted as petri dishes for the virus in the U.S., as overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions can make social distancing and recommended hygiene nearly impossible for inmates.

Driving the news: Several state-run jails have released prisoners to fight the spread of the coronavirus. In contrast, one effort taken by the Bureau of Prisons to slow the spread is mandating that all inmates be "secured in their assigned cells" until May 18.

  • Chicago's Cook County jail — a state-run facility — is the largest-known source of coronavirus infections in the U.S., the New York Times reported last week.

What they're saying: “The Bureau of Prisons is working hard to prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread of this global pandemic in its correctional settings, and we look forward to the OIG’s assessment of these efforts,” Bureau spokesperson Justin Long told AP in a statement.

The bottom line: 446 federal inmates and 248 employees from the Bureau of Prisons have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and 14 inmates have died.

Go deeper: Coronavirus behind bars

Go deeper

Kamala Harris resigns from Senate seat ahead of inauguration

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris submitted her resignation from her seat in the U.S. Senate on Monday, two days before she will be sworn into her new role.

What's next: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to serve out the rest of Harris' term, which ends in 2022.

2 hours ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.

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