Virus notes: March 28, 2020

MERCED (BLJ) – Merced County Department of Public Health reports that there have been 61 tests for novel conronavirus and seven deaths in the county.

Clearly, with a population of 257,000, Merced County, like most of the nation, is flying blind into the teeth of this virus storm in the middle of the night without either radar or communications with the ground.

Historians will assign blame more precisely than we can now but what is apparent now is that an anti-government and anti-science attitude, coupled with governmental incompetence at the federal level will rank high among culprits. If past is prologue, corruption should also figure among important causes of unnecessary deaths from the virus.

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There are 14 prisons from Sacramento County to Kern County: two federal, 12 state prisons. Hundreds of prison guards and family members of prisoners live in the San Joaquin Valley. They are our neighbors, their children go to ours schools, they go to our churches, grocery stores and movie theaters. To some extent left to be determined, our health depends on the quality of medical attention in the prisons in our midst.

CDCR reports on March 26 that 13 staff members at five state prisons were confirmed coronavirus cases. --


Los Angeles Times

First inmate in California’s prison system tests positive for coronavirus

By Paige St. John Staff Writer 

… Priority for testing for the coronavirus is given to prisoners who are 60 or older, have chronic health conditions or have compromised immune systems. The department would not provide the number of prisoners who have been tested for the virus so far, or the number of prisons with locked-down units because of possible cases… Last week, a federal judge ordered the creation of a task force to report within a week on plans to combat COVID-19 within the prison system. A lawyer on the task force who represents mentally ill inmates said the judge required that population reduction be among the issues discussed.

The task force began meeting Saturday.

California’s prisons are currently at 134% of their capacity. The prison in Los Angeles County is at nearly 140% capacity, with some 3,200 prisoners, though it was designed for 2,300.

Medical services in most California prisons are overseen by a court-appointed special master because of decades of overcrowding and substandard care. However, improvements have allowed the state to regain control of health care in a number of prisons....


Governor Newsom Issues Executive Order on State Prisons and Juvenile Facilities in Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

Published: Mar 24, 2020

No new commitments to state prisons or juvenile facilities will be accepted for the next 30 days

Order also directs videoconferencing of all scheduled parole suitability hearings starting next month

SACRAMENTO — To reduce the risks of COVID-19 in correctional settings, Governor Gavin Newsom today issued an executive order directing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary to temporarily halt the intake and/or transfer of inmates and youth into the state’s 35 prisons and four youth correctional facilities. Those inmates and youth will remain in county custody for the next 30 days. This period can be extended if needed. This action builds on the state and local correctional and public safety leaders’ longstanding partnership, to protect public health and safety in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency authority is granted to the Governor under the Emergency Services Act and to the CDCR Secretary under Cal Penal Code section 2900(b).

“The State of California is responding in real time and fighting hard to deploy every resource to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we are working with our public health experts, corrections system and our local sheriff’s departments to ensure proper protocols and procedures are in place to effectively limit risks in correctional facilities,” said Governor Newsom.

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Description of Columbus Circle in Manhattan in the first weekend of the shelter-in-place order.

What strange times.  In NYC we are experiencing empty streets (except for Ubers, taxis, cop cars, and ambulances), empty shelves, empty theatres and closed museums, closed restaurants and bars, and dark jokes with strangers.  Social distancing as a form of solidarity? As things worsen, I am watching with intense interest, and myself as well as others…

Lament of an elderly brother living in NYC now unable to visit his bedridden sister who lives out-of-town::

...That visit, in early January, was my last.  I can't drive, so I am forced to rely on Greyhound and Peter Pan, and that has now become dicey.  I am of course in the high risk category for coronavirus, and what is worse, my sister is at even greater risk than I am.  Covid-19 attacks the respiratory system, and that is a point of acute vulnerability for her.  What are the chances that I might bring the beast with me, picked up at a place like the Port Authority or at the nearby hospital  (or any number of only slightly less obvious crowd sites in NYC), and infect her?  It's a terrible anxiety, and a risk that I'm not willing to take on and impose on her…