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County Health Officer Declares Local Health Emergency as Prison COVID Outbreak Worsens

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Dr. Kenneth Korver, Lassen County’s Health Officer, declared a local health emergency Tuesday morning as the number of active confirmed COVID-19 cases at the California Correctional Center rapidly swelled to 214 in just two weeks.

The CDCR’s Deputy Director of Facility Operations, Division of Adult Institutions has issued an email directing that effective immediately CCC will serve as the statewide hub for male conservation camp inmates requiring that they be returned to CCC for COVID-19 related reasons.

Korver’s declaration begins by saying that the potential introduction of COVID-19 into Lassen County is a threat to public health according to Health and Safety Code section 101080.

In March Korver issued the recommendation that, “all transportation of inmates, be they federal or state, from institutions outside of the County of Lassen who are being brought into the County of Lassen or transportation of inmates from institutions within the County of Lassen, state or federal, being moved to institutions outside the County of Lassen, be discontinued until further order of the County Health Officer.”

The declaration points out that on June 8th CDCR transferred inmates from outside the County of Lassen, San Quentin State Prison, to within the County of Lassen, The California Correctional Center, without testing or quarantining them once they arrived, refusing to adhere to the recommendation of the Lassen County Health Officer.

Thirteen days later prison officials reported to the Lassen County Public Health Department that three of the recently transported inmates had tested positive of COVID-19 along with one inmate transfer that was housed with one of the infected inmates.

According to Korver, CCC requested 2,500 COVID sample test kits from the Lassen County Public Health Department and, “in the spirit of collaboration,” LCPH provided approximately 2,500 COVID sample test kits

Korver gave a timeline of the rapidly increasing number of infections at the institutions; on the evening of June 24th, CCC reported to Public Health that 22 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, the following day the prison reported that 76 more inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 and currently the total is at 214 active, confirmed cases.

Saying that CDCR has failed to identify exposed employees and provide a list of exposed employees within 72-hours of identification of the exposure to the County of Lassen, Korver called the failure a direct violation of Title 17, Div. 1, Chapter 4, California Code of Regulations.

CDCR, according to Korver, has not communicated, collaborated or shared a response plan to the COVID-19 outbreak within CCC and HDSP to the County of Lassen and, based partly on the fact that the prison was forced to ask for an additional 3,000 test kits from local health authorities, is demonstrating, “an ongoing lack of sufficient pandemic planning, which we did not supply based on guidance from California Department of Public Health.”

Lassen County, at this time, knows of 214 COVID-19 positive inmates at CCC and 4 COVID-19 positive inmates at HDSP, but the number of infected employees is unknown, due to what Korver called a “lack of cooperation by CCC to provide Lassen County Public Health with a list of names of exposed employees for investigation.”

“CDCR has proven the inability to confine the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed it to spread to two institutions within the County of Lassen and demonstrated an indifference of the impacts to the limited rural healthcare system within Lassen County.”

Click here to download Korver’s Health Emergency Declaration.

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