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Lompoc prison outbreak a “very serious concern” as SB County expands hospital surge plan

SBC Friday 4-17 Press Conference
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Santa Barbara County says it is developing additional care sites in case local hospitals are overwhelmed by patients from the Lompoc prison outbreak.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - As a coronavirus outbreak at the federal prison in Lompoc continues to grow, Santa Barbara County Public Health is ramping up its surge plan to ease local hospitals.

Public Health reported that 80 inmates and 30 staff members have now tested positive. At least 13 inmates and one staff member were hospitalized Friday before the announcement that one inmate, a 66-year-old man with underlying health conditions, has died at a local hospital.

The County is working with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which is building a medical facility on prison grounds that would initially have 22 beds. It is expected to be up within two weeks.

“They feel that 22 is a good start and meets the need immediately, with the ability to ramp that up to a significantly higher volume should that need arise,” said Nick Clay, director of the Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

The County, meanwhile, is developing a backup plan in case the prison outbreak overwhelms space available at local hospitals.

Public Health Director Van do-Reynoso says if 50 percent or more of the County's estimated 700 hospital beds become filled, additional temporary sites would be stood up for more patients.

"Phase Two," as do-Reynoso calls it, would send patients to hospitals or temporary sites in San Luis Obispo County. An Alternative Care Site on the Cal Poly campus would hold hundreds of additional beds.

SLO County Administrative Officer Wade Horton said Friday, "If we have the capacity to help our neighbors, we will. They would do the same for us."

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R - San Luis Obispo) reached out to Santa Barbara County Public Health on Thursday regarding a contingency plan for prison outbreak hospitalizations.

He was pleased to hear that Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties are working together, given that state resources are stretched thin.

“We really need to be masters of our own destiny here on the Central Coast, and make sure we’re that we’re utilizing the resources we’ve built out here in a cooperative way,” he said.

County Public Health says it is not currently investigating how the prison outbreak began because the current goal is to contain the outbreak. Clay says that will be a challenge because the facility is close quarters, with not much room for physical distancing.

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Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Ryan, click here.

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