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COVID-19 Update: Local Prisons Become Growing Concern as COVID Numbers Increase

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Susanville’s two state prisons are becoming a major source of concern for local officials as the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the inmate population has increased exponentially over the last 14-days.

As of Monday morning at 8:00a.m., the Lassen County Public Health Department was reporting 3 active community cases of COVID-19 in Lassen County, with 9 recovered cases.

However, the worrisome news came from the local prisons where the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is reporting 213 cases at California Correctional Center and 4 cases at High Desert State Prison.

“In mid-June or mid to late June some inmates were transferred from San Quentin to CCC,” explains Lassen County Public Information Officer Richard Egan. “The state using their protocol, which in our opinion doesn’t really quite comply with CDC or CDPH guidelines, transferred some inmates in who had tested negative for COVID, didn’t isolate or quarantine those inmates, put them in the population, and those inmates then later, because of some suspicion were retested and came back positive and that triggered the institutions to want to do mass testing.”

As of Friday the state had administered more than 2,500 tests at the institutions.

“We are kind of considering that to be a significant event in the county, an outbreak in the institutions, that requires some attention. The county incident team has been meeting regarding that and we are happy to report we have contingency plans in place, they have been in place since early March, to deal with these types of issues.”

Until this week Lassen County’s numbers had been held to a minimum and the area was being looked at as a model county by others around the state.

“This does come with some disappointment to us, because frankly our community has been doing a really good job dealing with COVID, our team at the county has been doing a spectacular job tracking down the few cases that we have had, and getting those people affected to quarantine and contain that and now we find ourselves in a situation that was put upon us by acts other than from the community.”

There are two separate, and important elements to this prison-related COVID story. First is that the outbreak started when a handful of inmates were transferred here and secondly, once those inmates were identified as having the virus CCC became a ‘hub’ to which all camp inmates who are infected would be routed and housed.

CCC Warden Suzanne Peery, in a letter to staff dated June 24th, suspended routine movement at CCC because of the surge in COVID-19 cases at the institution.

Peery explained in the letter that “Effective immediately, CCC will serve as a statewide hub for male conservation camp inmates requiring they be returned to an institution for COVID-19 related reasons. Any male inmate requiring medical treatment for COVID-19 related reasons will be transported to CCC for treatment and housing.”

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