Cases of COVID-19 on the rise at local prisons

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 21:30:02-05

Cases of COVID-19 are surging at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reporting nearly 200 new cases there in the last two weeks.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 at the California Men's Colony prompted family members of inmates to host a demonstration outside the prison back in August.

Active cases since then had been on the decline until earlier this month.

Case counts went from 12 cases on December 1 to now 180 active cases.

Officials say the medical staff is working around the clock to treat those who are infected or showing symptoms of the disease.

Jenny Hernandez considers her fiance to be one of the lucky ones without the virus so far.

"I thank God he's okay and he's healthy. That could change tomorrow," Hernandez said.

Hernandez says she has been sending her fiance vitamins to try to keep up his immune system during the pandemic.

She now hopes the correctional officers are among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as she believes the staff could contribute to the spread of the virus among the inmates.

"As soon as the pandemic happened in March, there was no visiting, there was no contact whatsoever, so how does one who gets no visits get a virus?" Hernandez said.

CMC officials say the well-being and safety of the incarcerated population and staff is their top priority telling KSBY News in a statement, "We are immediately responding to the increase in positive COVID-19 cases at California Men’s Colony (CMC) by increasing the frequency of testing, conducting contact tracing and implementing isolation and quarantine measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19."

Officials say all staff members are required to be tested for COVID-19 weekly. The prison says it is testing 100 percent of its incarcerated population, with recent statistics on the state's website showing about 66 percent of the population tested so far.

At the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, the Bureau of Prisons is reporting 13 active cases of COVID-19 among inmates and one case among staff.

This comes after a major outbreak earlier this year that infected more than 1,000 inmates and prompted inquiries from the Senate's Judiciary Committee.

KSBY News reached out to the Bureau of Prisons for comment but has not yet heard back.