Following Surge of COVID-19 Infections & Deaths at San Quentin Prison, Dental Unit is ‘Red Tagged’ for Failure to Protect Patients and Staff

For immediate release:

(SAN RAFAEL, CA) – After the botched management of the COVID-19 pandemic inside San Quentin State Prison (San Quentin), Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) today learned that the Department of Industrial Relations had ‘red tagged’ and closed the prison’s dental unit because it was not following proper health and safety protocols and potentially exposing incarcerated people and staff to the coronavirus.


On September 2, 2020, an unannounced inspection by the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) found that San Quentin’s dental unit was not providing employees with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for use during dental procedures and did not have a written plan to protect its employees from COVID-19. The dental unit was immediately ‘red flagged’ and closed. The dental unit will not reopen until a DIR inspection can confirm that proper health and safety protocols are in place to protect San Quentin employees and incarcerated people who require dental services.


San Quentin has had over 2,200 incarcerated people test positive for COVID-19, leading to the deaths of 26 inmates. At the same time, 281 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and one San Quentin employee died from exposure to the coronavirus while working at the prison.


Assemblymember Levine, whose district includes San Quentin has been a vocal critic of CDCR and San Quentin’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic since before the first inmate tested positive in late May.


“CDCR and San Quentin leadership have shown gross incompetence when it comes to protecting staff and incarcerated people from COVID-19,” said Assemblymember Levine. “Just when it appeared that the spread of COVID-19 at San Quentin was ending, another unforced error by prison leadership has dangerously exposed additional staff and inmates to this virus. If not for the quick action by DIR staff to close the dental unit, who knows how many more inmates or staff could have been harmed. With less than a month before CDCR Secretary Diaz’s retirement, this is not a time to rest on one’s failures. Immediate action must be taken to provide all CDCR staff with necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and to formalize written plans necessary to prevent additional transmission of COVID-19 at all state prisons.”


A copy of DIR’s inspection and citation of San Quentin’s dental unit can be found here:

San Quentin OPU for Dentistry.pdf