Family Members Raise Concerns as Florida Inmate Deaths Rise

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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | "Pooled testing" could speed up results ... Minneapolis council votes to get rid of police PIO ... Los Angeles County sheriff slammed for sexist statement.

The number of inmates in Florida prisons who died from the coronavirus rose more than 20% over the weekend, with family members of people inside state facilities saying they are afraid for their lives. The youngest prisoner to die was a 32-year-old woman, while the same prison also saw the death of a 75-year-old woman and at least one other inmate. “With every new death, it’s apparent that they’re failing,” said inmate advocate Debra Bennett. “They are just issuing death sentences.” In total, 46 inmates have died in the state, as of the weekend. States officials defended their record in state prisons, emphasizing they are following CDC guidelines. Florida is experiencing a surge of coronavirus, overtaking New York over the weekend as the state with the second-highest Covid-19 totals. Inmates are also complaining that in prisons without AC, mandatory masks are particularly uncomfortable. [Miami Herald; Orlando Sentinel]

POOLED TESTING | The practice of “pooled testing,” or testing a bunch of coronavirus samples at once, could speed up the now lagging process of running crucial Covid samples. The New York Times explained that the concept, which is often used by public health labs screening a large population for sexually transmitted diseases, involves gathering tests together in small groups. These grouped samples would be processed together—if there is a positive, then the lab has to go back and test each individually. But if all the tests come up negative, a lab has saved itself significant time. [New York Times

PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER | The Minneapolis City Council voted to eliminate the position of public information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, assigning the responsibility of speaking with the press about local crime to the city's communications department instead. The council criticized the MPD’s PIO about a press release following George Floyd’s death that described it as a "medical incident." Two councilmembers said that the press release raised “problems with accuracy" and showed "bias of the way information is reported." [Bring Me the News]

CORONAVIRUS CRITICISM | New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said over the weekend that the national response to the coronavirus pandemic is the  "worst abdication" of the "responsibility to protect Americans [she’s] ever seen." Despite pausing the state’s reopening last month, New Mexico’s case count is still rising, which Lujan Grisham attributed to people traveling in and out of the state. She said her state is "at the mercy of what’s going on around the country." [The Hill]

LA SHERIFF FIGHT | Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva ramped up his disagreements with members of the LA County Board of Supervisors, using a Mexican slur for a woman traitor in speaking about Supervisor Hilda Solis during a recent Facebook Live address. Solis had previously criticized police for their treatment of people of color. “It doesn’t just malign me, but women everywhere,” Solis said. A spokesperson for the sheriff did not address the remarks, but said that another supervisor had been sexist toward him by saying he should “put on his big boy pants.” [Los Angeles Times]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor.

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