The deadly coronavirus outbreak at California’s San Quentin prison is growing at a devastating pace. More than half of the people incarcerated there have been infected with COVID-19 as advocates and officials continue calls for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to release more inmates.
In late May, San Quentin prison had zero confirmed cases of coronavirus among its around 4,000 inmates. But after over 120 prisoners were transferred in from Chino, California — 25 of whom later tested positive for COVID-19 — an outbreak began.
As of Wednesday, over 2,000 people incarcerated at San Quentin have been confirmed infected with coronavirus — including over 1,200 with active cases. Some 200 staff members have also gotten the virus. And 11 people have died so far, with the latest COVID-19 death reported on Wednesday. Meanwhile, only 36 of those infected have been released.
After advocates and local officials called for the release of people incarcerated in state prisons, California’s Democratic governor announced last week that some 8,000 prisoners across the state would be let out over the next few weeks, prioritizing people with high-risk health conditions and those with less than six months left in their sentences.
It is unclear how many of those 8,000 will come out of San Quentin specifically. Since that announcement, dozens more prisoners have been infected there and four more have died.
Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Prisoners advocates and officials renewed calls this week for the governor to release more people incarcerated across the state. Statewide, there have been over 6,500 confirmed coronavirus cases among incarcerated people, and 37 have died so far.
Brendan Woods, the public defender for Alameda County, across the bay from San Quentin prison, said Tuesday: “Releasing 7% of the prison population isn’t enough. It will spread. People will keep getting sick and die,” and called on Newsom to “please do more.”
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D) — who said the governor’s release announcement last week was “a solid step, but more work remains” — also tweeted Tuesday denouncing the growing outbreak at San Quentin, pointing to the state’s “disastrous mass incarceration policy.”
“When you pack people into prisons, bad things happen,” said the state lawmaker out of San Francisco. “We must move quickly & decisively toward decarceration.”
Earlier this month, 20 inmates at San Quentin went on a hunger strike to protest inhumane conditions there amid a pandemic, including dirty, cramped cells.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in COVID-19 cases, with more than 3.4 million confirmed cases and over 137,000 dead from the virus so far. California has seen an alarming increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with more than 336,000 confirmed cases and more than 7,000 dead as of Tuesday. The state hit a seven-day average of over 8,200 new cases per day, according to the governor’s press conference Monday.