Marin health official expects COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin Prison to double in next 10 days

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- San Quentin has become the center of California's coronavirus outbreak. The number of cases have exploded in the past two weeks. As of Monday night, more than 1,000 inmates are infected as well more than 100 staff members.

Dani, who did not want to share her last name, spoke to ABC7 by phone about her 29-year-old son who is an inmate at San Quentin and tested positive for COVID-19. He called her last week.

RELATED: Transfer of San Quentin inmates halted after 2 test positive for COVID-19, over 600 confirmed cases
"He's scared, feeling sick," said Dani, who says her son was sentenced to 33 months in prison for a non-violent crime. She says he has several underlying health conditions, and she's worried.

"Taking his temperature, they've only been doing it every three days is what he was saying. It's like they don't care. They're not giving him cleaning supplies, they're not letting him take showers, he's his using his bar soap to wash his walls every day, so that at least he can try to keep it from getting any worse."

The San Quentin surge started in June after inmates were transferred out of a prison in Chino, where there was an outbreak. In a matter of weeks, 29% of the prison's 4,000 inmates and staff have tested positive.

RELATED: San Quentin State Prison COVID-19 outbreak grows to more than 500 inmates

California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says they gave inmates masks, are monitoring sanitation and hygiene, and have modified dining, phone and shower schedules to allow for more distancing and disinfecting.

This week, San Quentin started setting up air conditioned tents on the prison baseball field for medical triage and extra housing space.

"The virus moves more quickly than our response," said Marin County Health Officer, Dr. Matt Willis, who expects the San Quentin outbreak to reach 2,000 cases in the next 10 days.

RELATED: Officials say they warned of San Quentin Prison's COVID-19 outbreak
He says right now, there are 40 San Quentin inmates at hospitals throughout the region. 8 of the 40 hospitalized inmates are in Marin County hospitals, which accounts for most of the people hospitalized in Marin with COVID-19.

"We would expect upwards of 200 people who may require hospitalization by the end of this and so this isn't going to be solved by one by one, case by case transfers into local hospitals. It's going to require a much more robust systematic approach."

A court order that requires all San Quentin staff be tested by July 2nd, also says prison staff was identified as the main vector for spreading COVID-19 in state prisons.

"Many of the staff live and shop in Marin and now we have 100 infected staff, so it does become a concern in terms of the region."

When asked how to stop staff from bringing the virus home to their communities and families, Willis said, "making sure that the proper PPE is available and used by staff, the physical distancing is optimized, because they really need to reduce the total number of cases ultimately is the solution."

Willis said there is housing setup for infected prison staff who need to isolate.

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