Top medical officer for California prisons replaced amid outbreak behind bars

The top medical officer for the California corrections system has been replaced, officials announced on Monday. 

The move comes as COVID-19 infections among inmates are sharply rising. 

“We are in unprecedented times as we deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said California Correctional Health Care Services Receiver J. Clark Kelso. “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.”

Three more inmates at San Quentin State Prison have died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths at the prison to six. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom called the outbreak a "crisis" and a "top priority."
Newsom said the goal is to safely release some non-violent offenders to reduce the prison population.

"We don't want to just send people out, on to park benches and the homeless shelters, the governor said. "We have to make sure that we responsibly move people out but with a deep sense of urgency. "

The outbreak at San Quentin began after infected inmates from a prison in Chino were transferred there in late May.

The state has set up a field hospital to handle the surge of patients.