Coronavirus continues to spread in prisons, Lompoc expands testing

Michaela Vehslage, Staff Writer

As millions of Californians continue to shelter in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, the virus has ravaged several prisons including the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex, which has seen cases rise from 70 to 83 in the span of a day. 

As of Sunday, the complex has over 40 inmates and 10 staff members that are infected. The Lompoc United States Penitentiary has 86 inmates and 15 staff members infected with one inmate that has died. 

The number of confirmed cases continues to increase daily. 

“Some facilities such as Lompoc, Terminal Island, Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, and Forest City are collaborating with local health departments,” said Director Michael Carvajal. “To assist with testing all inmates in the local population, including, asymptomatic inmates.” 

Testing all inmates will increase the number of confirmed cases on the website, Carvajal said. 

He also said the bureau has “not included the testing of staff in it’s response to date,” partly due to the scarcity of testing.

The complex is following isolation and quarantine protocol in accordance with the CDC, according to an April 20 press release. 

Currently, visitation is suspended as well as phone and email communication. 

Masks were distributed to all prisoners as well as staff on April 3. 

“If an inmate is asymptomatic, they are placed in quarantine for a minimum of 14 day,” according to the Office of Public Affairs at the Bureau of Prisons. “If symptomatic for COVID-19, the inmate must be placed in isolation until they test negative for COVID-19 or are cleared by medical staff as meeting CDC criteria for release from isolation.”

To further reduce risk of infection, inmates showing symptoms are being considered for home confinement. 

Inmates that are being released due to good behavior, release to detainers, furloughs and transfers to halfway houses are being placed in quarantine for 14 days prior to the date that they will be released or transferred. 

The complex has built “10 double-occupancy negative pressure treatment rooms and negotiated a contract for medical personnel,” Carvajal said.  

The Office of Public Affairs said they have the necessary supplies such as masks and disinfectant to protect the inmates, but no other sources were able to corroborate this. 

As the severity of the situation at many of these prisons continues to escalate, Carvajal urged everyone to work together to get through this time.