Serial Laboratory Testing for SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Incarcerated and Detained Persons in a Correctional and Detention Facility - Louisiana, April-May 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Jul 3;69(26):836-840. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6926e2.


Transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), by asymptomatic and presymptomatic persons poses important challenges to controlling spread of the disease, particularly in congregate settings such as correctional and detention facilities (1). On March 29, 2020, a staff member in a correctional and detention facility in Louisiana developed symptoms and later had a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2. During April 2-May 7, two additional cases were detected among staff members, and 36 cases were detected among incarcerated and detained persons at the facility; these persons were removed from dormitories and isolated, and the five dormitories that they had resided in before diagnosis were quarantined. On May 7, CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health initiated an investigation to assess the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection among incarcerated and detained persons residing in quarantined dormitories. Goals of this investigation included evaluating COVID-19 symptoms in this setting and assessing the effectiveness of serial testing to identify additional persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection as part of efforts to mitigate transmission. During May 7-21, testing of 98 incarcerated and detained persons residing in the five quarantined dormitories (A-E) identified an additional 71 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection; 32 (45%) were among persons who reported no symptoms at the time of testing, including three who were presymptomatic. Eighteen cases (25%) were identified in persons who had received negative test results during previous testing rounds. Serial testing of contacts from shared living quarters identified persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection who would not have been detected by symptom screening alone or by testing at a single time point. Prompt identification and isolation of infected persons is important to reduce further transmission in congregate settings such as correctional and detention facilities and the communities to which persons return when released.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Services
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Louisiana / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons*