Thumbs down: State prisons fail coronavirus test

Thumbs down for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which has thoroughly bungled its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Faced with an outbreak at the sate prison in Chino, the department transferred about 120 inmates to San Quentin at the end of May. At the time, San Quentin hadn’t recorded a single case of COVID-19. Less than a month later, 1 in 4 inmates — more than 1,000 people — and about 90 staff members have tested positive.

State corrections officials said the Chino inmates were tested before they were transferred. OK, but that leaves out an important part of the story. Some of them were tested as much as a month before being sent to San Quentin. “Unrestrained COVID-19 infections at San Quentin State Prison is creating the worst prison-health catastrophe in state history,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael.

Prisons are tight quarters, leaving inmates and staff susceptible to viruses. But with planning and smart practices, outbreaks can be avoided. Consider Sonoma County’s jails, which reduced their population, implemented careful screening and began separating new inmates whose viral status is unknown. The result: just one infection to date.

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