In a letter
sent April 15 to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) and U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein made a series of requests to the director in an effort to get a rapidly spiraling outbreak at the Lompoc federal prison under control.
FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
SEEKING ASSISTANCE U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) penned a letter alongside U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein requesting additional resources from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to help mitigate the Lompoc Penitentiary COVID-19 outbreak, the largest infection rate at a bureau facility in the nation.
As of April 15, Santa Barbara County Public Health reported that 68 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, as well as 25 staff members. These numbers give the U.S. Penitentiary in Lompoc the highest infection rate of all Bureau of Prisons
facilities in the nation, the letter stated.
Requests made by the California elected officials include “granting the request to establish, staff and operate a 50-bed mobile hospital from the Lompoc United States Penitentiary (USP) in California and providing the staff members with the adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities to ensure their safety,” the letter stated. “This is in addition to filling the current medical and other prison staffing levels at this facility which are currently at 68 percent and 80 percent respectively.”
At the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s April 15 virtual press conference, county Public Health Department Director Dr. Van Do Reynoso said that the Lompoc USP is currently working to “stand up a field hospital within the prison grounds.” She also said that prison leadership is in contract negotiations with a private health care provider to operate the field hospital once it is ready. The field hospital will start with 11 beds with the intention of growing it to a 100 bed capacity, Do Reynoso said.
Bureau of Prisons' most recent data, which is updated on a weekly basis, shows that 1,487 total inmates are confined in Lompoc’s prison. With 68 inmates having tested positive as of April 15, that brings the inmate infection rate to 4.5 percent.
The first day that the Public Health Department reported infected incarcerated people as a separate figure from the Lompoc area’s general count was on April 8 at 30 inmate cases. Since then, the number of new cases per day has increased by more than five on average, with April 13 to 14 being the highest jump at 13 additional inmate cases—from 54 to 67. County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said at the April 15 virtual press conference that the Lompoc prison outbreak remains the only congregated living space outbreak so far in Santa Barbara County. Thirteen inmates are hospitalized at the Lompoc Valley Medical Center as of April 15, and two are in the intensive care unit.