Officials Put Pressure on Bureau of Prisons for Lompoc COVID-19 Outbreak
Photo: U.S. Penitentiary in Lompoc
By edhat staff
California legislators are re-emphasizing the need for rapid action to provide medical care at the Lompoc U.S. Penitentiary amidst a COVID-19 outbreak.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, Senator Kamala D. Harris, and Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a second letter on Tuesday to Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal re-emphasizing the need for rapid action to provide medical equipment and care facilities at the Lompoc U.S. Penitentiary and asking for an update from the bureau on what is being done to protect the health of all within the facility and the broader community.
“We are writing to you today to continue stressing the need for the BOP to move with urgency in establishing this facility with the necessary staff and equipment—including ventilators,” wrote the lawmakers. “We recently heard that Lompoc USP is still not receiving sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). We are also troubled to hear the BOP has not implemented a plan to protect its correctional officers and staff, who are also being exposed to COVID-19.”
The letter cites a near-doubling of the spread of coronavirus within the facility from the previous week, and highlights accounts of under-equipped prison staff sleeping in their vehicles to protect their families from the spread, as well as reports of an inmate being released without proper coronavirus care.
As of Thursday, the BOP is reporting 68 inmates and 29 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. There has been one death. Oliver M. Boling went into respiratory failure and passed away on April 17 at a local hospital.
The letter from lawmakers highlights the urgent need for a medical facility to be built and fully equipped with resources, including personal protective equipment and ventilators. The lawmakers also pose five questions to the bureau, demanding more information on prison safety protocols, the availability of personal protective equipment and timing on when the Lompoc facility can expect to receive its mobile hospital.
During Tuesday's Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisor's meeting, Lieutenant Brian Olmstead provided an update on the outbreak at the Lompoc prison.
Olmstead stated that on April 13, county officials developed a plan and requested to build a mobile hospital within the prison's facilities to move inmates who do not need a ventilator or extra care, from the local hospital.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department decided an old factory on the prison grounds was the best place to convert into a field hospital. The first phase is to convert the 11 offices in the factory into isolation areas for 22 patients. The construction has already begun and is expected to be completed within the week, said Olmstead.
The second phase is the convert the rest of the factory into a 60-80 bed congregate setting for low-risk patients. The prison is currently working with the Army Corps of Engineers and is awaiting approval, said Olmstead. He also reported the BOP is currently in the process of contracting with Aspen Medical to staff and develop the onsite hospital.
Olmstead stated the staff on prison grounds have restricted movement of the inmates and staff, are doing temperature checks for employees as they enter, and are working to try and trace back to the initial infection.
The legislators previously sent a letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal on April 15.