San Quentin prisoners moved into triage tents with coronavirus outbreak

With more than 1,000 prisoners affected by coronavirus at San Quentin, triage tents have been moved outside to keep those who are contagious away from the others, as some of the sickest have been transferred to local hospitals. 

On Tuesday, 1,080 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as 102 employees. That's double the number from last week. Last month, there were zero cases. 

The outbreak started when more than 100 inmates were transferred to San Quentin from the California Institute for Men in Chino at the end of May. 


Assemblyman Marc Levine says the corrections department created a health crisis by bringing un-tested inmates into San Quentin and has since been slow to respond. So far, there has been one death linked to the virus: Last week, a 71-year-old man on Death Row died and tested positive for coronavirus. 

"It's overwhelming them," Levine said. "It's a great concern. And now, San Quentin is popping up tents, that are air-conditioned on the campus of the prison, to make sure inmates have greater physical distance and for medical triage.”

Over the weekend, activists and loved ones of inmates held a rally outside the San Quentin gates demanding them to have all prisoners released for their health. 

They are especially concerned because of the close quarters inside the prison and the inability to social distance.

On Wednesday,  CDCR is scheduled to begin releasing up to 3,500 more incarcerated people who have six months or less to serve on their sentences to be let go in order to reduce overcrowding, which is a key factor in the spread of COVID-19. 

Prisoners who are serving time for domestic violence, or a violent or serious crime, or are sex offenders are not eligible for this early release. Other criteria include that the prisoner has a place to live upon leaving his or her facility and CDCR officials said all will "remain under close supervision for the duration of their sentence." 

That's also the same day the Senate Committee on Public Safety will hold an oversight hearing on the COVID-19 outbreak in California prisons.

The senators' hearing will focus on CDCR's current and future plans for the handling of the outbreak. 

KTVU's Lisa Fernandez and Brooks Jarosz contributed to this report.