San Quentin inmate tests positive after being released

A man recently released from San Quentin gave KTVU a first hand account of exposure to COVID-19.

The inmate said he was tested for the coronavirus but got out before he received the result.

Jose Omar Banos-Gomez is upset that he was released with no place to go.

He said  conditions inside the prison made it easy for the coronavirus to spread

From his hotel room in downtown San Francisco, Banos-Gomez said he's relieved that he's finally able to quarantine after he was released from San Quentin Monday.

He said he started suffering from a sore throat ten days ago and was tested for COVID-19 at a tent set up in the prison yard.

He said he was told he would be taken to a hotel upon release.

But that didn't happen.

"With nothing really. No hotel. No means for me trying to be safe. No means of getting my test results," said Banos-Gomez.

Instead, he said he was dropped of at the San Rafael transit center where he took a Golden Gate Transit bus to San Francisco.

He got off at 8th and Mission Streets.

With no place to stay, he said he took a cab to his family's home: a two-bedroom apartment. Six people live there.

"I'm worried about my mom, my brothers because I didn't want to expose them," said Banos-Gomez.

The 23-year-old said he had completed his one-year sentence for probation violation for a burglary conviction.

He said San Francisco police was supposed to pick him up upon release because of an outstanding warrant.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it followed procedure in the release of Banos-Gomez. When the agency scheduled to pick him up does not do so, "that person may be taken to a bus station.

CDCR cannot hold any incarcerated person passed their regularly-scheduled release date."

"We basically felt like they were just trying to get rid of him," said Sonia Montenegro, a relative who does not live with Banos-Gomez.

She said prison officials are exposing not only the inmate's family but the public.

"If they're not taking the time to quarantine these inmates as they're being released, we're not in this together," said Montenegro.

The day after his release, Banos-Gomez went to get another Covid-19 test and it was positive.

He went to SF General for help.

He said the staff there got him a hotel room Thursday so he could quarantine. 

He said he was scared while at San Quentin because of the conditions.

"No gloves. No social distancing. We play basketball. Play handball. Workout, pushups. And talk to each other.  We talk face to face," said Banos-Gomez.

He said there was no hand sanitizer and that he only had this one face mask -which he used repeatedly after getting it in March.

He said there was no enforcement when it came to wearing masks.

Banos-Gomez was in a cell by himself and that the men in the adjacent cells on either side told him they tested positive for the coronavirus.

"I heard them coughing, going through it, vomiting," said Banos-Gomez.

He said he was concerned that was he was going to die in prison.

Now, he's glad to have a place to quarantine.