Update: 23 Inmates, 5 Staff at Lompoc Prison Test Positive for COVID-19

North County Residents Worry Untested, Asymptomatic Staff Are Further Spreading the Virus

The federal facility confirmed 912 open COVID-19 cases among inmates and 25 cases among staff. | Credit: Courtesy

[Update 4/8:] Nine more inmates and three more staff at the Lompoc prison have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total of positive cases at the federal prison to 28. The original story follows.

Fourteen inmates and two staff members at the medium-security federal prison in Lompoc ― officially known as United States Penitentiary, Lompoc, or USP Lompoc ― have tested positive for COVID-19, according to information published Friday on the Bureau of Prisons website. 

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) operates 22 penitentiaries throughout the United States. Only two ― the correctional institutes in Danbury, Connecticut, and Oakdale, Louisiana ― have reported more COVID-19 cases than Lompoc. As of Friday, five Oakdale inmates had died from the virus.

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Lompoc officials would not directly comment on the status of their sick staff and inmates. Scott Taylor, a BOP spokesperson, said in an email that the federal agency “has instituted a comprehensive management approach that includes screening, testing, appropriate treatment, prevention, education, and infection control measures that apply to all BOP institutions, including USP Lompoc.”

The BOP’s screening tool for symptomatic inmates outlines steps wardens ought take to protect staff and prevent further spread within their facilities: place surgical facemasks on the infected inmates; outfit staff escorting the inmates with gloves, gowns, and face shields; house sick inmates in isolation units; and keep a log of everyone who interacts with them.

On April 1, the BOP ordered that all of its 146,000 inmates be confined to their cells for the next 14 days, given a sharp increase in transmission rates over the last two weeks. However, inmates still have access to their regular services and programs, including education and mental health treatment, the BOP said.

Santa Barbara County residents have recently expressed concern that untested, asymptomatic staff could be unwittingly transmitting the virus within their communities. Most staff live in Lompoc, Santa Maria, and the surrounding area. Of the county’s 152 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 61 are located in the cities of Lompoc and Santa Maria, with 18 more in Orcutt.

The Santa Barbara County Jail has reported six COVID-19 cases among its staff. It has not yet reported any confirmed cases within the inmate population.

USP Lompoc houses 975 inmates. The adjacent low-security prison camp, called Federal Correctional Institution Lompoc, or FCI Lompoc, houses 522 offenders.

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