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The Coronavirus Is Spreading Rapidly Through Sacramento Prison

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through a Sacramento prison, where 155 individuals are now confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus.

Nearly all of the cases at California State Prison-Sacramento have occurred in the past two weeks, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation statistics.

The prison “has had an increase (surge) in the number of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and is now considered an outbreak institution,” wrote Brittany Brizendine, prison CEO, in a Dec. 3 memo distributed to incarcerated individuals and obtained by KQED.

“We’re on quarantine, allowed only to go to the phone; one person at the microwave at a time,” said Matthias Daugherty, who is incarcerated in the prison’s minimum security unit. “You can exercise in your little area, but the yard is shut down.”

Before the current flurry of infections, the prison had managed to avoid a major outbreak. State records show only a few cases during the summer surge that overwhelmed San Quentin and other facilities in the prison system.

California is now shattering previous records at more than a dozen prisons across the state, forcing officials to issue fresh quarantine measures. In just the past two weeks, 9,136 new cases have been confirmed.

In an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, officials at the Sacramento prison are testing staff and inmates at least once a week, limiting movement, quarantining people with potential exposure, and isolating individuals who feel sick, according to the memo.

All staff are required to wear N-95 masks, while prisoners are provided KN-95 respirators and encouraged to “wear them at all times,” Brizendine wrote.

Daugherty says he keeps his mask on, constantly washes his hands and cleans his bunk area frequently.

But he still worries about getting sick. “It’s always on my mind,” he said.

Dana Simas, press secretary for CDCR, said officials are “working closely to immediately address an increase in COVID-19 cases at CSP-Sacramento.”

—Kevin Stark 

Copyright 2020 KQED