15th California inmate dies of COVID-19


Three California prisons have had inmates who died from complications associated with COVID-19, with Thursday marking the state’s 15th death among prisoners.

The latest COVID-19 death was an incarcerated person from Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Riverside County. Spokesperson Dana Simas said Friday it is the first death of an inmate at that prison and the person died at an outside hospital.

Currently, 990 inmates at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison have tested positive for coronavirus. That’s the highest number of cases reported among all California institutions. Statewide, there are a total of 2,442 active COVID-19 cases among prisoners, according to the state’s patient tracker.

The majority of deaths have been among inmates at the California Institution for Men in Chino, accounting for 13 of the 15 reported deaths. It was the first place where a COVID-19 outbreak occurred in April.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it recently transferred 700 inmates from California Institution for Men that were at high-risk for infection to other prisons, including 121 to San Quentin in Marin County.

Since then, there have been 16 positive cases of COVID-19 at San Quentin, where there were no cases several weeks ago.

The state said it isolates inmates who have tested positive to avoid contact with the general population. CDCR has since suspended transfers out of CIM while it “reviews this situation.”

There has been a legal effort to push for inmates to be released or moved from dorm-style housing. Attorneys argue it’s that setting that causes the virus to spread and increases the chances of complications or death among inmates considered medically high risk.

CDCR insists it is taking health and safety actions to address COVID-19 in its institutions. So far, there have been nearly 500 positive cases among prison staff.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at brooks.jarosz@foxtv.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU