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As the Chief Physician of Rikers Island, I prefer to do my work anonymously, but in these extraordinary times, I must comment on this letter from the district attorneys of New York.… 1/x
The only part of the letter I can speak directly to is their failure to appreciate the public health disaster unfolding before our eyes.
They suggest that the city:
“Immediately reassure the public and the courts that the city’s jail system is capable of appropriately managing the health needs of the remaining inmates, in a manner consistent with recent guidance from the CDC for managing COVID-19 in correctional and detention facilities.”
I can assure you we were following the CDC guidelines before they were issued. We could have written them ourselves. In essence we did, as they were wholly consistent with our plans as this virus approached.
I can also assure you that. 1. New York City has the best jail health workforce in the nation 2. We have spent years recruiting and retaining the most talented, mission driven health professionals in the field. 3. We will give our all through every brutal day of this crisis
Here’s the important part: infections in our jails are growing quickly despite these efforts.
Today there are close to 200 confirmed cases when just 12 days ago we had our first. In that space of time we have moved mountains to protect our patients.
This is not a generational public health crisis, rather it is a crisis of a magnitude no generation living today has ever seen.
It is possible that our efforts will stem this growth, but as a physician I must tell you it is unlikely. I cannot reassure you of something you only wish to be true.
I can reassure my patients that I will get them the best possible care, but we expect that 20% of those infected will need our overburdened hospitals and 5% will need ventilators that many other citizens will also need.
I can’t presume to tell you how to do your job, but neither should you presume to be experts in correctional health or corrections. I am raising this alarm for a reason. I simply ask that in this time of crisis the focus remain on releasing as many vulnerable people as possible.
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