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COVID-19 Infections Rising At San Quentin State Prison

Wikimedia Commons
San Quentin State Prison.


COVID-19 has spread to San Quentin State Prison, where over a dozen people incarcerated there have now been diagnosed with the virus.

San Quentin began reporting COVID-19 cases last week, and the number has been rising quickly. As of yesterday there were 14 cases reported.

Prisons are perfect incubators for the virus, and many facilities around California have seen outbreaks spiral quickly out of control. A prison in King’s County has confirmed over 800 cases, while another in Riverside County has nearly 1000. 

One of these hot spots is a prison in San Bernardino County. The California Institution for Men recently transferred several prisoners to San Quentin. CIM, as it’s known, has over 475 active cases. The goal was to move healthy, but at-risk, people to a safe location. 

But, despite passing initial health checks, four of those transfers have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to a department of corrections spokesperson.

Gavrilah Wells is an advocate for prison reform, and has friends who are incarcerated at San Quentin.

“I can’t believe that any health expert would approve this move. // It should not be a death sentence to be stuck in a prison where you have no control over your environment.”

So far, 12 incarcerated people at California Institution for Men have died after testing positive for coronavirus, as well as 2 state prison employees.

Chris is a graduate of KALW’s Audio Academy class of 2020. He is currently an Editor-Producer for KQED Podcasts and a freelance reporter. His reporting focuses on disability, mental health, and healthcare inequities, and has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Public Media Journalists Association, and the San Francisco Press Club.