New COVID-19 Cases Emerge Across CDCR, Population On Upward Trend

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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 update on CDCR’s COVID-19 crisis below. Visit our website to view and download raw data on cases, testing, releases and vaccinations.

By Yasmeen Khan

CDCR Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Outcomes

As of Nov. 14, there have been a total of 51,511 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 265 of them emerged in the last two weeks and 274 are active in custody.

Since the start of the pandemic, 50,378 confirmed cases have been resolved, and 242 individuals have died.

On Nov. 10, a COVID-related death was reported at the Correctional Training Facility (CTF), making it the facility with the third highest death rate. 

November proved to be the worst period for COVID-19 in recent months, with cases reaching a new peak of 338. Cases have not been this high since they reached 294 in March of this year. 

From mid-March to June cases did cross 50. Shortly after cases crossed 100 in June, a wave of new outbreaks struck many facilities in August and bringing cases up to 140. COVID-19 rates are nearly double this now. 

Cases began to significantly rise over 200 cases in late September, peaking at 253. By early November, it crossed 300 – the highest it has been since March.

There has been a similar trend in CDCR’s population

In March, the population across all 35 CDCR facilities was around 95,000. Since it has increased by nearly 5,000 individuals. 

CDCR suspended intake from county jails between Nov. 26, 2020, and Dec. 27, 2020. Limited intake resumed in January, and regular intake has been occurring since April 2021. The surge in population can be partially attributing to the resumption of county jail intake.

During the pandemic, CDCR had implemented early release programs to decrease the population. From July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 (the most recent date for which CDCR has provided data), release under the Secretary’s independent authority has resulted in more than 9,000 people paroling or being released to community supervision. These programs have now been halted.

​​As of  Oct. 13, the state’s prison population is approximately 114.7 % of design capacity. 

Along with the population, vaccination rates have been steadily increasing since their rollout earlier this year. Vaccinations appear to increase by around 2,000 to 3,000 every couple months.

Staff vaccination rates rose the most in October, with numbers increasing from 58,000 to 63,000 in just one month, an increase of 5,000 vaccinated staff members. 

There have been several outbreaks across CDCR despite the vaccination efforts. We have highlight few key ones below.

  • On Friday, Oct. 29, an outbreak emerged at Central CA Women’s Facility (CCWF), with four active cases in custody. Last week, cases reached a peak of 100. Case numbers remain significantly high as the outbreak continues into its second week. 81% of residents are vaccinated –16% higher than the staff vaccination rate of 65%. 
  • On Nov. 5 an outbreak emerged at Calipatria State Prison (CAL) starting with 8 cases. Within two weeks, that number has grown to 35 active cases. 76% of residents are vaccinated –3% higher than the staff vaccination rate of 73%.
  • On Oct. 4 an outbreak developed at CA State Prison Corcoran (COR) with 3 cases. By mid- Oct. there were 93 cases. The outbreak peaked at 113 cases on Oct. 25. This week, cases have continued to substantially decrease, going from 43 to 23, a decrease of 20 cases.
  • This week three new outbreaks emerged at Chuckwalla Valley State Prison (CVSP), CA Medical Facility (CMF), and CA Correctional Center (CCC), with four cases.  

In the past two weeks, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) has tested the most individuals, 64% of its population. Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) has tested the least, 14% of its population.

There are currently 99,936 incarcerated persons in California’s prisons – an decrease of 37 in the past two weeks. 

Incarcerated Narrative

A story from the Prison Journalism Project highlights the difficult conditions deaf individuals at San Quentin (SQ) endure during the pandemic. 

At SQ, the deaf community has access to only one interpreter. This posed a significant challenge during quarantine, when they were moved out of their block and spread out across a tier, worsening accessibility to the interpreter. 

​​“I am deaf and transgender, and during the COVID outbreak it was a pain to communicate without an interpreter,” said Cristina Toste. “Since the prison is opening back up, I love San Quentin. Everybody has been nice.”

“The COs (correctional officers) need more training with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues. I have been trying so hard to help them understand how they can do a better job when it comes to the deaf community,” Toste added.

There are currently almost 100 deaf incarcerated people across CDCR. Most are housed in the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (SATF) in Corcoran. 

According to some prisoners’ rights advocates, housing them at SATF makes it difficult to provide them needed interpretation. 

SATF has been experiencing an outbreak since late October, with case numbers reaching as high as 60. 

Along with interpretation services, access to crucial programming has been sparse. 

“Deaf people may serve longer prison terms than their hearing counterparts because they are not able to equally access educational and rehabilitative programming,” said Prison Law Office attorney Rita Lomio in an interview.

The ADA is intended to protect deaf individuals’ right to receive treatment equal to those without a disability.

Vaccinations

As of Nov. 14, 2,172 patients have received their first round of vaccines statewide and 78,247 are fully vaccinated. 78% of the total prison population is fully vaccinated, and 2% is partially vaccinated.

1,496 staff members have received their first round of vaccines statewide and 43,191 staff are fully vaccinated. 65% of the total staff population is fully vaccinated, and 2% is partially vaccinated. 

Currently, Correctional Training Facility (CTF) has vaccinated the most incarcerated individuals, 91% of its population. Wasco State Prison (WSP) has vaccinated the least of its population, 51%.

Division of Juvenile Justice

As of Nov. 12, 2021, there are 13 active cases of COVID-19 among youth. A total of 220 cases have been resolved since the first case was diagnosed in June, 2020.

A Year Ago Today

On Nov. 13 2020, there were 17,219 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CDCR and 82 deaths. 

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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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