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State responds to COVID outbreak in prisons including High Desert

California’s prison system is responding to the COVID-19 outbreak across the state and at Susanville’s High Desert State Prison, according to information posted on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website (cdcr.ca.gov/covid19/).

According to the website, as of Nov. 20, CDCR has reduced the inmate population by 21,488 to 92,830 prisoners.

There are currently 2,056 inmates with active COVID-19 infections, and there have been 83 inmate deaths (including one at HDSP). Currently 47 inmates are receiving medical care at outside health care facilities.

There are current 1,103 active COVID-19 cases among prison employees, including 908 within the last 14 days. A total of 5,339 prison employees have been infected with the virus.

CDCR and California Correctional Health Care Services are responding to the increase in COVID-19 cases at HDSP, Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran, the Correctional Training Facility, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Calipatria State Prison, Pleasant Valley State Prison and Valley State Prison.

According to the website, “Regular calls are being held with wardens and health care CEOs at each of the outbreak institutions and CDCR/CCHCS Department Operations Center staff to monitor and ensure adequate resources are available and all policies/procedures for COVID-19 preparedness and response are being followed. The DOC is a central location where CDCR/CCHCS experts monitor information, prepare for known and unknown events, and exchange information centrally in order to make decisions and provide guidance quickly.”

CDCR reports taking the following actions at HDSP:

  • Mass testing of the incarcerated population continues at HDSP (96 percent of population tested in the last 14 days);
  • As our protocol outlines, mandatory staff testing was increased last week to weekly testing due to the spike in cases;
  • Additional isolation and quarantine space has been made available on-grounds for those who test positive or are identified as a close contact;
  • Patients identified as a medically high risk for COVID-19 complications and those that are immunocompromised are tested every three to five days;
  • N95 masks and other personal protective equipment have been provided to those in isolation and quarantine units;
  • CDCR custody staff are being restricted from working in multiple housing units in an effort to mitigate potential spread; and
  • Additional clinical staff have been directed to HDSP to assist with health care procedures and screening.

According to the website, “The institutions are following public health and health care guidance for the incarcerated population in accordance with CCHCS guidance. Additionally, all are following the COVID-19 protocols for screening employees, social distancing and additional sanitation of bathrooms and other common areas. The incarcerated population is also provided additional cleaning products upon request and access to hand sanitizer.

“Movement of staff and incarcerated persons within these institutions have been limited to an as-needed basis to help mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. The incarcerated population and staff are required to wear a facial barrier when moving around the institution. Any required inmate movement between and throughout institutions is being directed by mandatory testing and isolation/quarantine timelines outlined in the CDCR/CCHCS Patient Movement Matrix.

“The well-being and safety of the incarcerated population and staff within CDCR and CCHCS is our top priority. CDCR and CCHCS public health and health care experts will continue to work closely together to address COVID-19 at all institutions.”

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