All housing units at the California Institution for Women in Chino were placed on quarantine this week after the facility experienced an outbreak of positive COVID-19 inmates, according to the California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

“After symptomatic cases were confirmed last week at CIW, the institution worked closely with county public health officials to increase testing efforts, including those who are asymptomatic,” officials stated in a news release. “Results have started to come back from lab testing, and we are seeing an increase in positive cases. The patients are mostly asymptomatic.”

State prison numbers show 47 inmates at the prison tested positive as of Champion press time Friday morning. One inmate has recovered. 

Two hundred inmates were tested on May 8 and an additional 200 on May 12, prison officials said.

“CIW will take immediate steps to prevent potential further spread and provide timely, appropriate care to those experiencing symptoms,” the news release said. “Movement will be extremely limited, including on-location medication administration, in-cell meals and temporary suspension of activities where physical distancing potential is limited.”

The prison will open up a previously unoccupied 120-bed housing unit for asymptomatic inmates while symptomatic inmates are treated at the prison’s Correctional Treatment Center or at an outside hospital, officials said.

Houten seeks release

An attorney for Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten is asking a state appeals court to release the 70-year-old from the California Institution for Women after an inmate in her housing unit tested positive for coronavirus.

Ms. Van Houten was sentenced to life in prison after she was convicted of murder and conspiracy in the 1969 killings of grocers Leno La Bianca and Rosemary Bianca in their Los Feliz home, near Los Angeles.

“Today I learned that an inmate in Ms. Van Houten’s housing unit tested positive for COVID-19 and she is presently being quarantined,” said Attorney Rich Pfeiffer on Monday. “Due to her advanced age, this puts Ms. Van Houten at a high risk.”

They are asking the court to place Ms. Van Houten on home confinement.

She was granted parole three times in the past decade, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown blocked it twice and current-Gov. Gavin Newsom blocked the release last year.

CIM cases hit 431

The California Institution for Men had an additional 99 inmates test positive for COVID-19 in the past seven days, bringing its total to 431, state prison numbers show. A fifth inmate at the Chino prison died May 9 at a hospital. 

His death is believed to be from complications of coronavirus, said state prison spokeswoman Dana Simas.

One CIM inmate died April 19 and three others died earlier this month, the spokeswoman said.

Identities and ages of the inmates were not released because of privacy laws.

Six inmates testing positive for coronavirus have been released from custody, Ms. Dimas said.

“Released while active are those who have served their full sentence as determined by law but still have an active COVID-19 infection,” Ms. Simas said. “We do not have any authority to hold an offender past their scheduled release date. However, we are partnering with state and local agencies to identify housing accommodations to people released from state prison, and who have a need to safely quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure or positive status, but do not have housing in place to do so.”

She said before an inmate’s release date, state prison officials and the California Correctional Health Care Services notify the county department of public health and the county probation office if the inmate is being released under probation supervision.

“The agencies are being provided information related to the offender’s quarantine or COVID-19 case status so they may make the appropriate accommodations for expected interactions and monitoring,” Ms. Simas said.

Tents set up at CIM

Eight tents have been constructed at the California Institution for Men for medical triage, testing and treatment of COVID-19 inmates, said prison spokesman Lt. Thomas Lopez.

“These temperature-controlled units will allow for increased treatment space, and reduce movement throughout the institution, while ensuring the health and safety for both staff and patients as the temperatures continue to rise,” Lt. Thomas said. “Six tents have been added for housing to enhance social distancing and two have been added to facilities for medical triage.”

Fifty-one staff members at California Institution for Men have tested positive for coronavirus since March, and 26 have recovered and returned to work. 

A total of 191 staff members at 31 California prisons or worksites have tested positive for coronavirus. State prison numbers show 111 of those employees have recovered.

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