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Coronavirus outbreak spreads in California's San Quentin prison

Richard Winton and Taryn Luna, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- With about a third of San Quentin's inmates now infected with the coronavirus after a transfer of prisoners from a Southern California correctional facility overrun by the illness, Marin County officials revealed Monday that a death row inmate found dead last week in his cell tested positive for COVID-19.

Richard Stitely's death was the first in California's oldest and most notorious prison, where 1,059 inmates and 102 correctional and medical staff have tested positive for the virus.

The Marin County prison has surpassed the California Institution for Men in Chino as the most infected prison in the state.

Marin County's hospitals have been inundated with intensive care patients from the prison. On Monday, 22 inmates were being treated at the county's hospitals, officials said.

In a letter sent Monday to the state, Marin County Board of Supervisors President Kate Rice requested the "establishment of on-site capacity to manage the care of inmates sickened with COVID-19 and the establishment of an Incident Commander at the facility with outbreak management expertise."

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state was coming up with a plan that included "using Seton Hospital, one of our alternative care facility sites" in Daly City to treat the inmates.


"San Quentin: So that is our deep area of focus and concern right now," Newsom said Monday.

Stitely had been on death row for nearly three decades since being sentenced for the 1990 rape and murder of Carol Unger, 47, who was last seen leaving a Reseda bar with him.

He was one of 725 death row inmates housed at the Bay Area prison. Of those, nearly 200 have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Stitely's official cause of death is still pending additional investigation, according to Marin County sheriff-coroner's officials.


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