Health officials, lawmakers face COVID-19 outbreak at Lompoc prison

Posted at 5:36 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 21:47:03-04

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary continues to worsen.

On Wednesday, health officials announced there was confirmed cases among 68 inmates and 25 staff.

"Their cases are growing at a fairly rapid rate and we are concerned," Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the Santa Barbara County Public Health director, said.

Santa Barbara County health officials say they have a four-track plan to help mitigate the issue.

Sacramento is sending a self-contained field hospital unit that comes with 50 beds, equipment, resources and personnel.

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and other area hospitals have been providing intensive care for inmates needing critical care services. Two officers are required for supervision of each patient.

With a field hospital to provide a medical level of care, those in need of intensive care would continue to be referred to area hospitals including SBCH.

Any prison staff member who wants to be tested can do so and health officials are working with prison management to find ways to stem the problem.

Wednesday, Congressman Salud Carbajal, alongside Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Dianne Feinstein, requested from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to establish the mobile hospital and fulfill more personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.

"These are equipment that are needed today. Not four weeks from now, not five weeks from now when this crisis becomes blown beyond a crisis in that facility," Carbaja said. "So my letter was prompting attention that it be given by the director of the Bureau of prisons to send that [mobile hospital] facility ASAP."

The Board of Prisons declined KSBY’s request for an interview, but in a lengthy statement, prison leaders say they modified operation plans at the beginning of April, stating in part: these are "not a lockdown, but rather a means to minimize inmate movement, to minimize congregate gathering, and maximize social distancing among the inmate population."

Symptomatic inmates are not placed on work detail or assignments.

The prison has suspended social visits to inmates.

"We are deeply concerned for the health and welfare of those inmates who are entrusted to our care, and for our staff, their families, and the communities we live and work in," the Board of Prisons stated. "It is our highest priority to continue to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities."