COVID-19 has been surging across California’s prison and jails this summer. But as cases behind bars increase, vaccination rates remain incredibly low with few signs of improvement. Meanwhile, at several jails, populations are also on the rise, returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Because of high infection rates, incarcerated people are subject to continuous quarantines and isolation. Visitation and programming remain halted or sparse in many facilities. Clearly, the pandemic behind bars is not over, as examples in San Francisco, Alameda and Santa Clara counties show.

But unlike the general population, where a sense of normalcy is returning, it is unclear what the future holds for carceral facilities, especially because complacency regarding COVID-19 mitigation is mounting.

Last month, San Francisco’s jails reported their largest COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic started. Over 70 people tested positive, according to the sheriff’s office. Prior to this surge, there were typically fewer than 10 people in custody with active cases on a single day.

Nearly 40% of the jail population was quarantined or placed in isolation due to the outbreak. These lockdowns, which sometimes involve 23 hours a day inside a cell, detrimentally affect the mental health of incarcerated people.

The recent outbreak suggests we cannot ease COVID mitigation yet. But, as of last month, despite an order from the San Francisco health officer mandating vaccines and boosters for correctional officers, nearly 35% of sheriff’s office jail staff had not received their booster doses though they were eligible. Even more concerning is the inmate vaccination rate — just 48% are fully vaccinated.

The vaccination rate in correctional facilities tends to be lower than in the general population. In Alameda County, for example, less than 30% of the Santa Rita Jail population is fully vaccinated, compared to 84% of the county. The disparity in booster doses is more …read more

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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