Half of All CDCR Outbreaks in May & July Traced Back to Employees, Testing Cannot Substitute Vaccination, Says Court Receiver

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By Julietta Bisharyan 

Bi-weekly update from CDCR’s COVID-19 crisis. The Covid In-Custody Project partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring quantitative and qualitative reporting on the pandemic’s impact on county jails and CDCR to the public eye.

CDCR Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Outcomes

As of Aug. 7, there have been a total of 49,643 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 184 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 185 cases are active in custody, while 603 have been released while active. 

A total of 48,620 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic, and 235 individuals have died.

In the past two weeks, Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) has tested the most individuals, 96 percent of its population. Ironwood State Prison (ISP) has tested the least individuals, just 16 percent of its population. 

A total of 133,994 patients have been tested cumulatively. 33,198 patients have been tested in the last two weeks across CDCR.

There are currently 98,983 incarcerated persons in California’s prisons – a reduction of 23,426 since March 2020, when the prison outbreaks first began.

Effect on Public

On Aug. 4, federal receiver J. Clark Kelso, who oversees medical care inside California’s prisons, asked a federal judge for a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination order for guards and staff at the prisons amid the delta variant risk. 

“The risk now is grave,” Kelso wrote in a 27-page report to the court about conditions inside CDCR. “We cannot afford to be lulled by the decline in infections in CDCR, which mirrored the fall in rates in the larger community.

In his request, he notes that only 42 percent of custody staffers in state prisons have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and that overall only 53 percent of all staff have had a shot.

Likewise, the report says half of all outbreaks between May and July were traced back to employees, and says that testing as a substitute for vaccination is not sufficient.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association filed documents with the court saying conditions in the prisons were improving, and that mandatory vaccines were not needed.

CDCR issued a statement, saying, “From the onset of the pandemic, the department has been proactive and responsive in implementing mitigation efforts, including masking at all times, regular testing and vaccines, which continue currently at all of our institutions. Our department is embracing and complying with the Governor’s proof of vaccination and testing requirements as related to state workers, and we have and will continue to work with public health and health care to ensure we are doing everything we can for the health and safety of our staff, population and communities.”

Reopening

According to CDCR, seven facilities are currently in Phase 1 in CDCR’s road to reopening plan. Phase one indicates that the prison has facilities that currently have an outbreak or are recovering from a recent outbreak of COVID-19.

Twenty-four facilities are in Phase 2, meaning there is partial reopening and modified gradual easing of Phase 1 restrictions.

202 facilities are in Phase 3, which indicates new normal programming. Reopening of programs and services will be reviewed and implemented weekly by the institution, according to the plan. If a facility experiences an outbreak, it must revert to Phase 1 restrictions.

California Correctional Center (CCC) has the most facilities, all 18, under Phase 3. Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) has the most facilities in Phase 2, seven facilities total.

CDCR Staff

Gov. Newsom terminated executive orders that put into the place the Stay-at-Home Order and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy effective Jun. 15, 2021, meaning State departments are no longer required to collect and report absentee data. 

As a result, CDCR will no longer be collecting COVID-19 data for their employees.

The final cumulative employee COVID-19 data shows that there have been a total of 17,002 cases and 28 deaths among staff members statewide. 

Division of Juvenile Justice

As of Aug. 2, there is one active case of COVID-19 among youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities. 205 cases have been resolved since the first case was diagnosed in June 2020.

A Year Ago Today

Last year, CDCR distributed KN-95 masks to all institutions for use by staff, contractors, visitors, volunteers and the incarcerated population. Individuals being released to the community were also issued at least five KN-95s or cloth face barrier masks.

In addition, six small tents were set up at San Quentin to house positive COVID-19 patients. 

On Aug. 7, 2020, there were 8,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CDCR. In California, there were 553,552.

References:

https://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/california/article253263213.html

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About The Author

Aparna Komarla leads the Covid In-Custody project, which partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring reporting on the pandemic's impact on county jails and CDCR to the public eye. See www.covidincustody.org for more information.

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