SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (KRON) – “We are all in a lot of distress with what’s happening there right now,” attorney Michael Bien said.
More than 2,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus at San Quentin, with 94 new cases in the past two weeks.
At this time, 537 people in the prison have the virus — 19 of the inmates have died.
This is all according to the prison’s population tracker on its website.
The virus is moving fast within the walls of the prison but it’s also not isolated to just inside.
There are more than 250 confirmed COVID cases among staff members.
KRON4 is told staff are given N95 masks as they enter the prison each day and are being tested every 14 days.
“He has a tube in his throat. He just woke up a couple days ago. He can nod and blink, but he hasn’t been able to speak yet and it’s still going to probably be a long road to recovery,” Dwanda Schwarz said.
Dwanda Schwarz’s father is fighting for his life at a Bay Area hospital after contracting coronavirus at San Quentin last month.
“We are on Day 27 now and he’s still on oxygen,” Schwarz said.
But it’s not just inmates who are sick. As of Monday afternoon, the prison reported 251 confirmed COVID cases among staff members.
Only 78 have returned to work.
These are men and women who work at the prison and then return home to communities across the Bay Area.
“We no longer have the luxury of confining thousands of people in tightly closed spaces and thinking it will only impact their public health and their public safety. This impacts us all,” James King said.
James King was released from San Quentin in December and now works for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
“I think one of the biggest injustices done was to call this a San Quentin outbreak. From the very beginning, this has been a Marin County outbreak and I often, back a few months ago, thought about those people who were at a local gas station next to someone who had just gotten off shift at the largest outbreak in the state and had no clue because they weren’t being told that this outbreak was occurring within their community,” King said.
“Men and women who provide medical care and correctional supervision at a place like San Quentin are heroes, they have to go to work every day in dangerous conditions. That’s a tough job and they are showing up,” attorney Michael Bien said.
The prison has taken some steps to reduce the spread of the virus — like releasing thousands of inmates.
But we’re told mandatory staff testing just began a few weeks ago and while everyone is given masks, not everyone is wearing them.