The Grapevine

California Prisons Medical Officer Ousted Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

The decisions that medical officials have to make during this time of crisis is critical. A wrong decision would prove costly and it appears that is the case for a top medical officer at a California state correctional facility. The said officer was hit for the transfer of hundreds of inmates from a Chino facility, a place that had been battling the dreaded COVID-19 virus.

Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at the decision, a move that resulted in three more deaths over the July 4 weekend over at the San Quentin State Prison. One-third of the inmates there have tested positive for the coronavirus with the number of deaths now at six. The 121 inmates were transferred in late May, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“They should not have been transferred,” Newsom said.

Dr. R. Steven Tharratt was removed as the prison's statewide medical director. He will now serve as the special healthcare advisor to the receiver.

According to Newsom, the COVID-19 issue plaguing the prison is a major concern for his administration. Aware that crowded facilities will only lead to more infection and possible deaths, he hopes that by reducing the inmate count in the next weeks there would be no new cases and deaths in the correctional facilities. The count is now more than 4,000, a number he hopes to bring down to as much as 3,082 in the next few weeks. But before doing so, he wants to make sure that prisoners who would be sent out will not add more burden to the coronavirus pandemic in the region.

“We don’t want to just send people out to park benches and homeless shelters,” Newsom said. “We have to make sure we responsibly move people out.”

There are 28 inmates who have died statewide tied to COVID-19. More than 2,400 are infected. With these numbers, a reorganization during this critical time is deemed needed for long-term sustainability, according to receiver J. Clark Kelso.

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“In order to meet current response needs while also working toward further delegation of medical care back to state control, it has become evident that a reorganization is necessary for long-term sustainability,” he said.

San Quentin now has 1,381 infected inmates. There are 920 new cases in the last 14 days, per the data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s COVID-19 tracker. The number of prisoners who tested positive accounts for one-third of the population or roughly about 3,450. The 721 of those inmates are on death row.

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