A COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin State Prison has halted the California Department of Corrections’ plans to transfer some inmates from San Quentin to North Kern State Prison.
A total of 1,011 cases have been confirmed in the inmate population as of Monday, and 89 staff members have also tested positive.
Tents were also set up on Monday in the prison yard. NBC Bay Area has learned the tents are air conditioned and will be used for triage and to help inmates keep physical distance.
The outbreak was likely caused by an inmate transfer in May from a prison in Chino.
An inmate reached out to NBC Bay Area to say they are desperate for help.
"They're not going to bring in extra nurses from the streets to come take care of us," the inmate said. "All they are doing is just musical chairs -- moving us from one cell to another."
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is working on a solution, part of which involve moving sick inmates to Seton Medical Center in Daly City. The governor said they are also still trying to place inmates who are eligible to get out early.
Hadar Aviram, a UC Hastings law professor, said it may be too risky to transfer inmates between facilities to create more space.
"There are other institutions in California Corrections that don't have an outbreak," he said. "And if they start moving people there, we're going to see the exact same tragedy that played out in San Quentin."
Newsom did not have a timeline for when the state may start moving sick inmates to Seton Medical Center, but said he is trying to move as quickly as possible.
Activists held a town hall Zoom meeting Saturday to talk about what can be done to curb the spike.
“I’m on a bottom bunk,” one inmate said. “The person that is next to me, in the next bunk, is about two feet away. It’s more challenging for my bunkee, who’s on the top bunk. He’s inches away from the person who’s on the next top bunk.”
Many on the Zoom call want early release for prisoners nearing the end of their sentence.