The number of confirmed active COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff at the federal prison complex in Lompoc grew to an eye-popping 599 on Thursday as mass testing at the property continues to expose the true scope of the outbreak.
At Federal Correctional Institute Lompoc (FCI Lompoc), a low-security facility and one-half of the prison complex where 100 percent of prisoners are in the process of being tested, 541 inmates and 11 staff are currently infected. A total of 1,162 inmates reside there.
At United States Penitentiary Lompoc (USP Lompoc), a medium-security facility with two satellite camps that has yet to undergo mass testing, 33 inmates and 14 staff have open cases. Two inmates from USP Lompoc, which houses 1,542 offenders, have died.
The complex’s 599 cases have now eclipsed the total number of infections among Santa Barbara County residents, which stood at 441 as of Thursday afternoon. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the federal department that operates the Lompoc facilities, is also only disclosing open coronavirus cases, while the tally by Santa Barbara health officials of residents includes both open and closed cases, meaning the complex’s aggregate count is even higher than 599. But to what degree is unknown as BOP administrators have declined to comment beyond the data on their website.
Inmates and their families have complained since the start of the outbreak in late March that Lompoc prison officials are not doing enough to curb the spread of the virus. Social-distancing protocols were slow to roll out, and personal protection equipment came weeks after the first cases were reported in the tightly packed cells and dormitories. Hand sanitizer is still considered contraband because of its alcohol content.
The complex remains on full lockdown ― with inmates confined to their bunks 24 hours a day except to use the shower or go to the bathroom ― as Lompoc officials try to contain the outbreak, now the second-worst among the BOP’s 122 penitentiaries. Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institute in San Pedro is reporting 633 open cases and six deaths. Nationwide, 44 inmates have died.
This article was underwritten in part by the Mickey Flacks Journalism Fund for Social Justice, a proud, innovative supporter of local news. To make a contribution go to sbcan.org/journalism_fund.