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San Quentin COVID-19 Outbreak Continues To Grow; More Than 1,600 Active Cases Among Inmates, Staff

SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) -- The COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin State Prison continued to escalate Sunday with more than 1,600 active cases among inmates and staff.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation COVID-19 tracker, the number of active cases among inmates had increased to 1,485 by Sunday. Another 27 inmates had been released from the facility while infected, 372 inmates once infected had recovered and seven inmates have died.

While many inmates had been refusing to be tested, prison officials said 1,290 have now been tested within the last 14 days.

Dozens of critically ill inmates -- many the old and frail from San Quentin's Death Row -- remain in local hospitals. Some are under ICU care with ventilators.

Since the San Quentin COVID-19 outbreak began last month, six inmates sentenced to California's death row have died. Three death row inmates -- Dewayne Carey, Scott Erskine and Manuel Alvarez -- have been confirmed as victims of the illness.

David Reed and Joseph S. Cordova, who had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in San Pablo, died while being treated in an outside hospital for COVID-19 complications. The Marin County coroner's office has yet to confirmed that COVID-19 was the cause of death.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that roughly 8,000 prisoners will be released to try to contain the COVID-19 outbreak at state prisons.

Those who have been advocating for early release of certain inmates say this is a step in the right direction but only a hundred or so are expected to be released from San Quentin, where more than 1,750 inmates have been infected since coronavirus outbreak began weeks ago.

Jacques Verduin, the founder of GRIP -- Guiding Rage Into Power -- helps inmates transition to life on the outside. Over the past eight years, GRIP has graduated 913 with 321 of them being released. Only one has returned to prison.

So far, not one GRIP graduate has been granted early release. The governor's plan does specify low-level offenders with 180 days or less remaining in their sentences and those who are at risk of COVID-19-related complications.

"We are evaluating every prisoner for release that they are on a pathway to rehabilitation that they are non violent, non-sex-offenders, non-serious-offender that have a place to go," said assemblyman Marc Levine.

Levine, whose district includes Marin County, feels it took too long for the governor to take action, especially at San Quentin.

"I asked for this in April, it's something that must be done," Levine added.

Those who have connections to inmates serving at San Quentin agree. Many describe dire conditions with inadequate medical care.

"One of my dearest friends -- a mentor of mine -- is in a ventilator right now," said James King, a former San Quentin inmate.

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