Korver declares local health emergency due to prison COVID-19 outbreak

Dr. Kenneth Korver, Lassen County’s Health Officer, declared a local health emergency in Lassen County at 11 a.m. today, Tuesday June 30.

Richard Egan, Lassen County’s administrative officer and public information officer for the Lassen County Incident Command, said Korver’s declaration is a statement about what is occurring in Lassen County and does not affect the status of the re-opening that is currently underway.

Egan said three staff members at the California Correctional Center — two from Lassen County and one from Plumas County — have tested positive for COVID-19. He expects they are or soon will be under quarantine orders.

The outbreak at CCC also may have spread to Plumas County. Lori Beatley, a public information officer from the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department, reported two recent COVID-19 cases in Plumas County may be related to the outbreak at CCC. And Korver also revealed CDCR may have released inmates with active COVID-19 infections into Lassen County.

According to Korver’s declaration, “The introduction of COVID-19 to the California Correctional Center and High Desert State Prison by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the ‘released while active’ inmates to Lassen County is a threat to the county of Lassen.”

Korver alleges “CDCR has not communicated, collaborated or shared a response plan to the COVID-19 outbreak within CCC and HDSP to the County of Lassen,” and, “CDCR has proved the inability to confine the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed it to spread to two institutions within the County of Lassen and demonstrated an indifference of the impacts to the limited rural healthcare system within Lassen County.”

Korver’s two-page declaration strongly criticizes both actions and inactions taken by CDCR.

Korver’s original local health emergency declaration of March 20 recommended the discontinuation of moving all inmates — state and federal into or out of Lassen County. CDCR ignored that recommendation, and on June 8 transferred inmates from San Quentin to CCC “without testing or quarantining them once they arrived, refusing to adhere (to) the recommendation of the Lassen County Health Officer.”

On June 21, CCC informed the Lassen County Public Health Department that three of those inmates tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and a fourth transferred inmate was housed with one of the infected inmates.

On June 21, CCC requested and received 2,500 COVID-19 test kits from the LCPHD.

On June 23, the Deputy Director of Facility Operations, Division of Adult Institutions, directed that CCC serve as a “statewide hub” for male conservation camp inmates “requiring they be returned to CCC for COVID-19 related reasons.”

On June 24, CCC reported 22 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, June 25, that number had risen to more than 76 inmates. On June 30, the number of infected inmates had risen to 214 at CCC and four at HDSP, along ‘with an unknown number of employees due to a lack of cooperation by CCC to provide Lassen County Public Health with a list of names of exposed employees for investigation.

According to Korver’s declaration, CDCR was required to provide a list of exposed employees within 72 hours of identification and exposure, “a direct violation of Title 17, Division 1, Chapter 4, California Code of Regulations.”

On June 28, CCC requested an additional 3,000 test kits, “demonstrating an ongoing lack of sufficient pandemic planning. The LCPHD did not supply those tests based on guidance from the California Department of Public Health.

Representatives from CCC and CDCR did not respond to requests for comment on this story.