Hundreds Of Inmates, Staff At San Quentin Positive For Virus

Hundreds of inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus at San Quentin State Prison
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

More than 200 inmates and staff members at the San Quentin State Prison have tested positive for the coronavirus since the beginning of June and North Bay State Assemblyman Marc Levine tells KCBS Radio the outbreak is linked to another outbreak at a state prison in Chino, CA. 

Hundreds of medically vulnerable inmates were transferred out of the California Institution for Men to protect them from a growing outbreak there. But while the transfer plan required inmates to test negative before being transferred to another facility, it is not clear if those tests were completed and when. The San Francisco Chronicle reports some inmates were last tested weeks before they were transferred.

121 inmates were transferred to San Quentin on May 30, and since then over 200 cases have been recorded at the facility. 

“The series of gaffes began when they sent prisoners from Chino to San Quentin without testing them beforehand,” Levine said. “Once they got to San Quentin they were co-mingled with regular San Quentin inmates and put into prison cells that were open air, with bars not doors.”

Inmates from the Chino facility were housed on the top floor of a prison block shared with San Quentin inmates. 

“The vapor and the droplets of the prisoners who are sick, that was all able to filter through the entire prison block… that’s how we got this outbreak with hundreds of prisoners now with COVID, but also our state employees,” said Levine. “It is a shame that all of their health has been put at risk. Lives are in the balance right now.”

Levine says his warnings and calls for transparency went ignored, and he is now asking the state’s health officials to take charge.

“This ultimately is going to have to come down from Governor Newsom to straighten this out and put an adult in charge. We need an epidemiologist who knows what to do. And that’s been missing from the Department of Corrections.”