Cunningham, local leaders requesting Lompoc prison COVID-19 numbers be excluded from county reporting

Posted at 3:38 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 20:13:54-04

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham along with some northern Santa Barbara County leaders are calling on the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to exclude the COVID-19 positive case count at the Lompoc prison complex from Santa Barbara County numbers.

In a letter sent to the CDPH Monday, it states, in part, "There is no way for the County of Santa Barbara, or the cities surrounding the prison, to help control this outbreak within the prison, as it is a federal facility on federal grounds. The County and local hospitals have, however, stepped in to provide assistance, contingency planning, and medical care to inmates."

County officials have said the outbreak at the federal prison complex in Lompoc will likely keep Santa Barbara County from moving into the latter half of California's Phase Two for weeks.

In order to do so, counties must have less than one new COVID-19 case per 10,000 residents in a 14-day period, something that's not currently possible with the case count at the prison growing daily.

"Since the outbreak was announced, Santa Barbara County Public Health and the surrounding communities have been consistently rebuffed in their efforts to not only help manage the outbreak, but to better understand how the outbreak occurred to this magnitude. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) has circled the wagons and refused to work with the county in a productive manner. The residents of Santa Barbara County should not be held responsible for the FBP's mistakes," Cunningham said in a press release.

The letter sent to the CDPH also said,

"The outbreak only occurred at this magnitude because of FBP's failure to act in a timely manner. According to reports in the Washington Post , it took the FBP until April 1 to start enacting social distancing measures among inmates. Local officials' requests for more information have been denied, and the FBP - through the Justice Department - requested local officials and NGOs not publicize the number of hospitalized inmates and where these inmates were hospitalized.

"In short, the failure to contain this virus lies totally at the feet of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, not the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health."

The letter is signed by not only Cunningham but also Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Peter Adam, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, City of Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne, City of Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino and Santa Barbara County Supervisor-Elect Bob Nelson.

To read the full letter, click here.

As of Monday afternoon, the Bureau of Prisons website was reporting positive COVID-19 cases among more than 900 inmates and 25 staff.

Over the weekend, there were 1,308 cases overall reported in the county with 11 deaths being attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.