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The US Supreme Court has rejected a request to require that a Texas prison for elderly inmates provide coronavirus protections.

After a district judge ordered the prison to provide hand sanitizer, disinfect common areas every 30 minutes and provide all inmates and staff members with masks, a federal appeals court blocked the order while the case was appealed.

Texas officials said they were already complying with the CDC recommendation for prisons. But inmates at the geriatric prison said the policies were inadequate to protect the elderly, who were more at risk for complications from Covid-19. One inmate at the facility died hours after being taken to the hospital for difficulty breathing. It was later confirmed that he had contracted coronavirus.

In a dissenting argument, Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote:

“It has long been said that a society’s worth can be judged by taking stock of its prisons. That is all the truer in this pandemic, where inmates everywhere have been rendered vulnerable and often powerless to protect themselves from harm. May we hope that our country’s facilities serve as models rather than cautionary tales”.

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