California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi reported its first deaths related to coronavirus in December. Four inmates lost their lives to COVID-19 while incarcerated, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website.
Of the four inmates who have died from what appears to be complications related to COVID-19, one died Dec. 26 and two more died Dec. 30. The fourth inmate died within the last week.
CDCR would not release the names or ages of the deceased inmates, citing protection of "patient confidentiality."
In addition, the CDCR website reports 568 staff members have tested positive for the virus, and 522 of them have returned to work as of Saturday. One staff member reportedly died from the virus on July 25, 2020.
"In July, CCI established an Incident Command Post to ensure immediate communication and coordination between operations, health care, and public health experts to address positive COVID-19 cases at the institution," Terri Hardy, spokesperson for CDCR, wrote in an email.
As of Saturday, CDCR reports 58 active, in custody cases among inmates, with 40 new cases in the last 14 days.
"The well-being and safety of the incarcerated population and staff within CDCR and CCHCS is our top priority. We are immediately responding to the increase in positive COVID-19 cases at California Correctional Institution with coordinated efforts to increase the frequency of testing, conduct contact tracing and implement isolation and quarantine measures to mitigate spread of COVID-19," Hardy wrote.
To date, 74 CCI inmates have been released while having active COVID, and 1,099 cases have been resolved.
CCI’s inmate population is 2,905 with a total staff of 1,663.
According to Hardy, the facility is following the mandatory statewide modified program in an effort to limit movement of both staff and the population.
"This includes staggered dining and recreation schedules to allow for physical distancing and disinfecting between use while not mixing housing units, education and rehabilitation materials delivered in the housing units, and only essential transfers conducted under the CDCR/CCHCS Patient Movement Matrix which dictates mandatory testing and quarantine timeframes for all transfers," wrote Hardy.
According to Hardy, CCI is conducting mass testing of the inmate population on "a constant basis" and requiring mandatory weekly staff testing.
In addition, Hardy stated that CCI has identified housing areas for isolation and quarantine and is following protocols per public health and health care guidance for the incarcerated population.
Based on public health recommendations, in-person visiting has been suspended since March.
"CDCR continues to work towards safely and securely implementing video visiting at all institutions by the end of the year," Hardy wrote.
According to Hardy's email, all institution staff are required to wear procedure (surgical) masks while performing duties on institution grounds, and additional personal protective equipment if required based on public health guidance.
N-95 masks are utilized by staff and inmates in isolation housing areas, custody/medical staff who come in contact with isolation inmates and inmates being transported off grounds as well as the transportation staff. Additionally, all staff are screened verbally and by temperature check whenever entering institution grounds. All inmates have been provided numerous cloth facial barriers and are regularly provided cleaning supplies, with additional supplies provided upon request.
"CDCR and CCHCS have an established supply of PPE to ensure ample equipment is immediately available to address COVID-19 at all institutions to protect staff and the incarcerated population," Hardy wrote.