The situation at San Quentin State Prison is getting increasingly dire. On Thursday, the COVID-19 case count spiked to 1,345 cases, which is more than a third of the prisoners.
Fifty-nine of those inmates are spilling into Bay Area Hospitals, leaving county leaders worried these extra cases could put them on Governor Gavin Newsom’s “watch list”.
Fifteen inmates from San Quentin are being treated in Daly City at Seton Medical Center for COVID-19. Three of those people are in critical condition. Corrections officials have warned San Mateo County leaders that more inmates may be transported to Seton soon.
“This is not just a San Mateo County issue; it’s a state issue, because there are other counties taking inmates from San Quentin," said Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa. He is worried; he wants to show compassion, but he doesn’t want the inmate count to add to the county’s COVID case numbers, which could get the attention of Newsom.
“The state needs to make a change and a delineation,” Canepa said. “If we’re taking all these inmates, they should separate that from our numbers in terms of hospitalizations.”
Right now, San Mateo County is allowing indoor dining and salons are open. But if the numbers spike, Newsom could roll things back just like he did with Solano County Wednesday. Meantime, the situation at San Quentin State Prison is borderline catastrophic. One Death Row inmate said of the 350 prisoners in his block, “I’ll say most of us are already infected. They’re telling us they’re going to test us and we’re waiting for that test every day, but it’s just getting worse and worse here.”
This is something Berkeley Public Health officials warned of nearly three weeks ago when it reported that San Quentin was “experiencing a rapidly evolving outbreak with profoundly inadequate resources.”
“Sometimes I just visualize what he might be going through and it breaks my heart,” Patricia Zinnamon said. For her, it’s maddening. She last spoke to her husband Rashiyd Zinnamon three weeks ago. He’s an inmate at San Quentin who is in quarantine after testing positive for the virus. As far as she knows, he’s asymptomatic and confined to his cell 24/7, not even being allowed to shower for several consecutive days.
“It’s just surreal almost to me that this is happening in this day in age in America,” Patricia said.
Canepa says that although up to 40 more inmates may be transferred to Seton Medical Center, he’s not worried about capacity issues for now.
In a recent statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, wrote:
“CDCR and CCHCS appreciate the feedback provided during yesterday’s Senate hearing regarding COVID-19 in California’s prison system. We’ve heard and share your concerns about the health and safety of all who live and work in our facilities and the communities in which we reside. Our teams are working closely together with the Governor’s Office, California Office of Emergency Services, California Department of Public Health and valued community stakeholders to move forward in addressing this global pandemic not only at San Quentin, but at institutions statewide.”