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Some 40% of state prison guards haven't gotten shots

Update: Judge rules against union.

A federal judge today continues to ponder a request by state corrections officers to order Charlie Baker to let them continue working without getting a Covid-19 shot even after his Oct. 17 deadline for state workers to show proof of vaccination.

In a response to a query from US District Court Judge Timothy Hillman, a lawyer for the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union writes today that at an Oct. 13 negotiating session between the union and Department of Correction, the department reported that 1,411 guards were unvaccinated - about 40% of the union membership.

Separately, a prison-rights group and three Harvard-affiliated immunology and public-health experts urged Hillman to order the guards to comply with Baker's vaccination demand because of the unique public-health issues in prisons - as a state judge did in a similar suit by state troopers.

In their amicus brief, Prisoners' Legal Services and doctors Yonatan Grad, Monik Jimenez and Amir Mohareb write that "congregate facilities like prison are particularly high-risk environments for COVID-19" and that the masks and social distancing preferred by the guards have limited usefulness when compared to vaccinations in reducing the spread of the virus and the severity of infections.

People who live and work in prisons are especially susceptible to the primary ways in which COVID-19 spreads. ... First, the virus spreads through inhalation of respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person exhales, talks, coughs or sneezes.2 Because this form of transmission is most likely to occur when someone is physically close to an infectious person, generally within about six feet, people who live and work prisons are more likely to contract the virus. Second, COVID-19 can spread through airborne transmission, where droplets containing the virus can remain suspended for hours. Such transmission is more likely to occur in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation like prisons.

They then discuss conditions in Massachusetts prisons in particular:

The plaintiffs suggest that the Department of Correction's current mitigation measures “have not proven to be unsuccessful” and that "robust enforcement of mask mandates and physical distancing rules, regular testing and symptom monitoring with prompt isolation and quarantine requirements for those who test positive, and regular and effective surface cleaning" "would serve equally well" as the vaccine requirement for staff members. While plaintiffs provide no evidence to support these claims, there is plenty of evidence to refute them.

To begin, mitigation alone has not prevented people in Massachusetts prisons from contracting and dying of COVID-19. Over the course of the pandemic, at least 21 people incarcerated in the Department of Correction have died of COVID-19 and at least 2,615 people incarcerated in the Department of Correction have contracted the virus. At least 954 correctional officers and staff have also contracted the virus.

What is more, there have always been, and continue to be, limits to the protections provided by non-vaccination measures. Even under the strictest enforcement regimes, masks must still be removed to eat and sleep. And even under a weekly testing regime of all staff - which does not appear to occur at the Department of Correction ... the virus can spread between tests.

Attorney's letter (1.6M PDF).
Amicus brief (168k PDF).

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Comments

Require proof of vaccination or proof of previous COVID infection. That should take care of it.

The anti-anti-vax crowd won't be happy, but a good compromise leaves nobody happy.

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Voting closed 21

Charging the unvaxed $200 a month more for health care costs. And time off for Covid is unpaid. So if you get sick you have to pay for it, and some of the additional health care costs

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Voting closed 32

Every other state worker has had to vax up or pack up.

Should be no different for these jackasses.

We all know that this isn't about vaccination anyway - what it is about is YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!

This is a full-scale insurrection against civil authority by the carceral state. It needs to be handled in the same way they handle citizens they don't like.

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Voting closed 74

Should teach them a lesson, take the position! I bet you’d love the job! I know there’s so much competition for those jobs but it should be no problem!

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Voting closed 22

Learn what words mean, willya?

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Voting closed 10

“You’re not the boss of me” - police, firefighters, prison guards, etc.

The government is very much the boss of you, and compensates you FAR better than anyone else would.

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Voting closed 33

As for me, I'm sick of paying for the fire department just so that my neighbor's house can be extinguished when it becomes a blazing inferno. It's socialism and I hate it.

(Sarcasm.)

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There are fire departments that will not put out a house fire if the homeowners have not kept up their subscriptions. Socialism is very often a good thing.

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became the richest man in ancient Rome.

He owned the only fire department.

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Previous COVID infection does not appear to confer a very strong immunity.

Not every opposing pair of opinions needs or merits a compromise solution. For example, if the question were "Slavery should be legal," vs "Slavery should not be legal, " or if my toddler wanted to run out into a busy street and I wanted him not to run out into the street, I'd have no interest in a good compromise.

A good compromise is a solution negotiated between well-informed people acting in sincere good faith that, while it doesn't give everyone what they want, it gives everyone a solution they can accept and live with.

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Voting closed 33

"Previous COVID infection does not appear to confer a very strong immunity."

Untrue. https://www.science.org/content/article/having-sars-cov-2-once-confers-m...

That's not a crackpot fake news site. The takeaway: People who have not had Covid absolutely should get vaccinated since that's a far less risky way to gain immunity than acquiring it via Covid infection. But according to the Israeli study, natural immunity is stronger and more durable than vaccine-acquired immunity.

Just to add: The Israeli study also does show that a vaccination on top of natural immunity confers even broader immunity than natural immunity alone, but the fact remains that natural immunity still appears to be a superior shield against (re-)infection than full vaccination alone.

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Voting closed 13

The researchers also found that people who had SARS-CoV-2 previously and received one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine were more highly protected against reinfection than those who once had the virus and were still unvaccinated.

“We continue to underestimate the importance of natural infection immunity … especially when [infection] is recent,” says Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at Scripps Research. “And when you bolster that with one dose of vaccine, you take it to levels you can’t possibly match with any vaccine in the world right now.”

So it sounds like the scientists here are still advocating for people to get vaccinated, even if they've had COVID previously.

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They do advocate that previously-infected people get vaccinated -- but that doesn't change the fact that previously-infected, unvaccinated people have stronger immunity than never-infected, fully-vaccinated people.

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It comes down to what exactly is the threshold for "strong immunity". What the anti-anti-vax crowd is doing is claiming the threshold for "strong immunity" is measured antibody-counts above what is created by natural-immunity and below antibody-counts created by Janssen vaccine-immunity. That's reverse-engineering, optimizing for spite.

Natural immunity on its own has pretty good outcomes, if you go by what you find browsing through the published research. Maybe vaccine immunity is better, maybe not, but it I think the value of natural immunity 100% falls into "reasonable people can disagree" territory.

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Natural immunity leads to infection responses that are not as intense as vaccination immunity, but it is more varied when confronted with variants.

IN ANY CASE ... like the vaccination immunity, it wanes after six or so months - and a vaccination is the way to restore it (reinfection is not a good idea).

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Is that science.org website even legit?

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It's the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which publishes Science, one of the most respected academic journals in the world...

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Fair point about good compromises, but no. We’ve been compromising for, oh idk 8 months and inmates and gaurds alike continue to get sick and die.

We have ways to mitigate this tragedy, and offering crumbs to obtuse prison guards isn’t one of them.

As Rahm would say, don’t let a good crisis go to waste, this is a great time for some prison reform. Fire these guards, release the non-violent inmates on parole, start cutting back the prison-industrial complex.

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Voting closed 25

As Rahm would say, don’t let a good crisis go to waste, this is a great time for some prison reform. Fire these guards, release the non-violent inmates on parole, start cutting back the prison-industrial complex.
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Only the vaccinated inmates?

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1. Sure, which is 80% of them as of April.

2. Releasing inmates isn’t that new of an idea, inmates were getting good time credit for getting the vaccine.

https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2021/apr/1/massachusetts-governor-e...

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Better known as "everyone with a grasp of 3rd-grade science."

I'm impressed with not only your ability to be wrong about pretty much everything you post about, but also your willingness to consistently demonstrate your total lack of understanding of pretty much anything.

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Voting closed 24

They probably don't need doors on the cells either.

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Voting closed 9

That should be just as effective for confinement as the surface cleaning is for COVID-19 mitigation.

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As of late January, when vaccination of prisoners began, 19 inmates had died of Covid-19 according to this WBUR report: https://www.wbur.org/news/2021/01/22/massachusetts-prisoners-coronavirus... The amicus brief cites a total of 21 deaths of incarcerated persons due to Covid, so that implies two deaths since vaccination began (and the ACLU Massachusetts tracker confirms this). With (presumably) most inmates now vaccinated, it would seem that their risk is quite low. According to ACLU Massachusetts' tracker, there have been 415 Covid cases among prisoners and staff since March 1.

IMO the data is important to balance the state's legitimate need to protect a vulnerable population against the workers' right to not undergo an unwanted medical procedure. It's not clear to me, based on the data, that the state meets its burden here.

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Voting closed 12

2 minute hate. Ready, set...go.

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I'm sure the union has convinced these guards to NOT get the vaccination with promises that they'd be able to leverage this into some concessions from the state. What are they going to do when they discover they're wrong and 40% of their members are suddenly (though predictably) without a job and ineligible for unemployment?

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Doesn't seem like a credible threat. The state wouldn't be able to run the prisons, and putting the remaining staff on endless mandatory overtime for long enough to get new guards trained would probably lead to a bunch more quitting.

You can argue that there are too many people in prisons in Mass., but the state already has the lowest percentage of its population incarcerated at about 0.11%.

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Voting closed 9

Hello National Guard.

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That's not even remotely close to enough to replace 1,411 unvaccinated DOC employees. Plus they have to be trained as well.

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There are military police in the NG. They are almost certainly overqualified for the job of prison guard. Even infantrymen would probably take almost no time to learn the job. It's not rocket science.

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We pay their insurance costs for the most part--taxpayers. If their insurers told them they would either lose coverage or have to pay 100% of their insurance premiums for being "extremely high risk" for illness they'd have to choose. Why put all the "bad cop" role on employers? Where are the insurance firms in all this antivax insanity? Every time an antivaxxer goes to the ER ALL of our insurance rates go up.

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"And although mitigation efforts such as masking and testing are important—because they can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 after it enters a facility—they are not as effective as preventing COVID-19’s introduction in the first place by vaccinating the staff who commute, daily, between the outside community and the prison"

Does vaccination "prevent the introduction of Covid in the 1st place" if the vaccinated can still carry and transmit the disease?

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Vaccinated people are much less likely to transmit the disease, but it's by no means perfect.

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Attorneys letter link is broke

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Sorry about that.

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As long as all prisoners are vaccinated, they have nothing to worry about.

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That's pretty weird, if so. Seems like a very odd social dynamic!

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I meant vaccinated prisoners will have little to worry about. The mandate to vaccinate public workers is mostly for the protection of the public they work with, not the workers themselves.

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n/t

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why wouldn't they need to get vaccinated so as to limit spread of the virus between each other? And aren't they still interacting with other members of the public who are not prisoners, for instance families of prisoners who come to visit?

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And yet all have to do the same vaccination paperwork and be fully vaccinated by the deadline.

These jackholes are not special.

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