Assemblymember Levine Calls for COVID-19 Planning at San Quentin State Prison

Thursday, May 14, 2020

(SAN RAFAEL, CA) – Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) today called on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and San Quentin State Prison (San Quentin) to develop site specific plans to address a potential COVID-19 infection surge at the prison and ensure that limited hospital capacity in the North Bay would be able to safely accommodate civilian and prisoner patients. San Quentin is located in Assemblymember Levine’s district in Marin County.

While COVID-19 cases in Marin County have remained relatively low with 271 reported cases and 14 deaths as of May 12, Levine has received a number of inquiries from constituents about appropriate planning underway to protect prisoners, correctional officers, staff and the public in the event of a sudden increase of infections. This highly contagious and deadly virus has already killed over 80,000 Americans including nearly 3,000 Californians. A potential infection surge of COVID-19 among the inmate population and civilian population in Marin County would easily overwhelm the limited hospital capacity in the North Bay and could result in additional casualties. There are many communities throughout California near CDCR facilities with limited local ICU capacity to deal with a dual community/prison infection surge.

Levine’s letter follows discussion with CDCR staff and San Quentin Acting Warden Ron Broomfield about their COVID-19 planning, where they were able to share their statewide plan to treat and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This plan unfortunately, did not include site specific plans or coordination efforts with county public health offices for any of the 35 state prisons under the jurisdiction of CDCR.

“Prisons are high risk settings for large outbreaks, and if there’s a spike in cases at San Quentin we know we’ll be engaged in the response,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “With a clear, site specific plan we can react more quickly to protect the entire community.”

Levine’s letter requested specific information on four subjects:

1. What is San Quentin’s site-specific plan to treat a surge of COVID-19 positive prisoners including sourcing PPE and other necessary materials? 

2. What impact would a surge of COVID-19 infections have on the surrounding hospitals and community?

3. What steps are being taken at San Quentin and across CDCR to limit these impacts? 

4. What resources must we provide CDCR to ensure that prisons and communities across California are prepared for a surge in prisoner infection?

“Planning now for a possible surge of infections at San Quentin will save lives for all members of our community,” said Assemblymember Levine. “State prisons frequently coordinate with county public health departments to address a range of public health issues. The COVID-19 pandemic heightens the need for CDCR to develop prison specific plans necessary to build public confidence in their work, reduce transmission rates and save lives during this public health crisis.”

A copy of Levine’s letter to Secretary Diaz and Acting Warden Broomfield can be found HERE.

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Levine Letter to CDCR & San Quentin