By Yasmeen Khan
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. Read our bi-weekly update on CDCR’s COVID-19 crisis below. Visit our website to view and download raw data on cases, testing, releases and vaccinations.
CDCR Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Outcomes
As of Sept. 5 there have been a total of 65,605 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) system comprising of 35 state prisons – 187 of these cases emerged in the last two weeks.
A total of 49,565 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic, and 240 deaths from COVID-related complications have been reported.
As of Sept. 10, 2021, CDCR now includes reinfections in its COVID-19 Population Tracker. This has significantly increased the number of total cases and active cases in custody.
The definition of a new case will include:
- A patient with a first positive test within CDCR,
- A patient with a new positive test 90 days or more after the first positive or any prior positive test that qualifies as a new case (i.e. there has to be at least 90 days between positive tests to be considered a new case).
This new definition makes it possible for the same individual to be counted as a new case of COVID-19 up to four times per year.
According to the CDCR’s memorandum published on Sept. 10, updating COVID-19 data reporting methodology resulted in an increase of 450 cumulative cases — less than 1% increase of the total cases count reported thus far.
An outbreak at North Kern State Prison has significantly worsened. There are a total of 75 cases active in custody, which is an increase of 27 cases since the beginning of this week. CA State Prison Solano is also experiencing a large outbreak with 47 cases active in custody.
In the past two weeks, CA Institution for Women has tested the most individuals, 96 percent of its population.
There are currently 99,475 incarcerated persons in California’s prisons – a reduction close to 26,000 from the population in March 2020, which was over 126,000 individuals.
Effects on the Public
The Biden Administration stated their goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot beginning in the Fall, with individuals being eligible starting 8 months after they received their second dose of an mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna).
However the booster-shot plan has faced setbacks.
A government advisory panel overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots across the board, only endorsing booster shots for those who are 65 or older or run a high risk of severe disease.
“I don’t think a booster dose is going to significantly contribute to controlling the pandemic,” said Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University. “And I think it’s important that the main message we transmit is that we’ve got to get everyone two doses.”
While the FDA struggles to endorse widespread boosters and some CDCR facilities still struggle with low vaccination rates, Mule Creek State Prison began administering the Pfizer and Moderna booster shots to the incarcerated population in the final week of August.
“The first to receive it were elderly and at-risk medical prisoners. Mule Creek’s acting medical chief support executive A. Altschuler was present in the visiting room as the boosters were given,” Franklin Lee, an incarcerated person at Mule Creek State Prison, wrote in his article published to the Prison Journalism Project.
As the FDA and CDC debate over who should be getting the booster shots, this calls into question where incarcerated individuals will fall in this debate, as they face overcrowded conditions and lack access to adequate healthcare.
As of Sept. 19, 2,246 patients have received their first round of vaccines statewide. 75,262 are fully vaccinated. 76% of the total prison population is fully vaccinated and 2% is partially vaccinated.
2,327 staff members have received their first round of vaccines statewide. 36,667 staff are fully vaccinated. 55% of the total staff population is fully vaccinated and 4% is partially vaccinated.
Currently, Correctional Training Facility (CTF) has vaccinated the most incarcerated individuals, 92 percent of its population.
Division of Juvenile Justice
As of Sept. 17, there are eight active cases of COVID-19 among youth. A total of 211 cases have been resolved since the first case was diagnosed in June, 2020.
A Year Ago Today
On Sept. 14 2020 an incarcerated person housed at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison passed away from causes related to COVID-19.
On Sept. 18 2020, there were 12,553 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CDCR and 60 deaths.