Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. prison and detention systems are dangerously susceptible to the coronavirus, experts say.

Why it matters: Immigration and corrections systems around the nation are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 — but they face several systemic challenges.

  • "I'm confident that communities that have sustained spread of coronavirus outside the walls of jails and prisons will also have coronavirus inside those walls," Homer Venters, former chief medical officer of New York City jails, told Axios.

Driving the news: Visits by family members, friends and attorneys to people held in federal prisons are being halted for 30 days, the AP first reported.

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has suspended social visits to immigrants in its custody.
  • Republican and Democratic lawmakers have sent letters to administration officials asking them to provide information about how they are preparing immigrant detention centers as well as prisons as the coronavirus spreads.

The big picture: Detention and correctional spaces are the "perfect environment for the spread of COVID-19," Leonard Rubenstein, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins who has studied infectious diseases in prisons, told Axios.

  • Prisons, jails and detentions are confined spaces, and often overcrowded.
"So when we talk about social distancing, it's almost impossible in prisons unless you have complete lockdown — basically, put everybody in solitary confinement."
— Leonard Rubenstein
  • They often have poor sanitary conditions. Even access to proper hand washing isn't always available, the experts said. Hand sanitizers are often considered contraband in prison because they can contain alcohol.
  • The U.S. incarcerated population has a surging number of elderly people who are more susceptible to severe symptoms if infected by the coronavirus.

"The people that we have put into our 5,000 county jails, state and federal prisons, and immigration detention centers are disproportionately people of color, but also people with lots of health problems," Venters added.

  • There has been recent controversy over immigration officials not giving flu shots to migrants after being initially encountered at the border and taken into custody.
  • Some federal union officials are concerned the spread of coronavirus along with understaffing could lead to a rare federal prison lockdown — something that hasn't been done since 1995, according to Kaiser Health News. Venters warned that punitive actions such as putting prisoner's in lockdown could actually make matters worse.
  • "The mitigation for this virus or any outbreak is not simply to lock people away in cells and not let them out. That's not sustainable," he said. "It's creating health risks for the people in those cells."

The latest: All visits, tours and events at Washington state correction facilities are on hold as screening processes are being set up, according to a press release.

  • In New York City, as of Thursday, visitors must first have their temperature taken and fill out a form to determine if they are at risk of having the virus, the city's department of corrections told Axios. Some visitors may also have to see a medical professional as part of screening.
  • NYC's corrections department is working with a company that oversees the city's correctional health care "to identify and evaluate detainees with potential symptoms and refer them for testing as necessary," the deputy commissioner for public information, Peter Thorne, told Axios in a statement.
  • On Monday, Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also announced an end to prison visitation "for the time being."
  • California has also stopped all normal visits to inmates in the state‘s prisons.

On the immigration front, Health and Human Services (HHS) is no longer placing migrant minors who cross the border without their parents in shelters located in California or Washington state, a spokesperson confirmed to Axios. As of March 11, there had been no suspected or confirmed cases reported.

  • ICE has had four of its nearly 38,000 current immigrant detainees meet the criteria for coronavirus testing as of March 3, the agency told Axios. There had been no confirmed cases as of March 12.
  • ICE also uses cohorting — the grouping together of immigrants with symptoms — in detention as an alternative to self-monitoring at home to prevent spreading the virus.

What to watch: The Iranian government has temporarily released 70,000 prisoners to prevent coronavirus infections from spreading, as Reuters has reported.

Go deeper

Trio of Saturday mass shootings rock U.S.

Police officers in New York City's Times Square on Saturday. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The U.S. was hit by mass shootings in New York City's Times Square, a shopping mall in Florida and at a townhome near Baltimore that left four people dead, including the suspected shooter.

The big picture: Since President Biden took office in January, over 700 people have been injured or killed in 139 mass shootings as of late last month.

2 hours ago - World

Scottish first minister vows independence referendum after election win

Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, reacts after being declared the winner of the Glasgow Southside seat at Glasgow counting centre in the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on Friday. Photo: Andy Buchanan /AFP via Getty Images

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans Saturday for a second independence referendum once the pandemic has abated following the country's parliamentary elections.

The big picture: Sturgeon's Scottish National Party won 64 seats, one seat short of an outright majority in the 129-seat Parliament. But most seats went to pro-independence parties.

4 hours ago - World

India records its deadliest day of the pandemic

A health worker moving an oxygen cylinder in a coronavirus ward of a hospital in New Delhi on May 8. Photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India saw its deadliest day of the pandemic yet with more than 4,180 confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported Saturday.

Why it matters: The country has recorded more than 21.8 million coronavirus cases and 238,270 deaths since the pandemic began. The true numbers, however, are likely much higher, experts say, as the country battles a continued surge in cases that has left hospitals and health workers overwhelmed.