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City and state leaders appeal to Governor to exclude Lompoc Federal Prison’s COVID-19 cases in the reopening mandates

United States Penitentiary, Lompoc usp lompoc
Federal Bureau of Prisons
United States Penitentiary, Lompoc

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara County leaders are appealing to Governor Gavin Newsom to exclude Lompoc Federal Prison's COVID-19 cases in his reopening mandates. They're concerned the tally could set the area back in its efforts to reopen.

Santa Barbara County leaders, from Mayors to Supervisors to state and US Representatives, are requesting the Governor's Office exclude the Lompoc prison's COVID-19 case counts from the county's overall total.

“The COVID-19 numbers at the Lompoc penitentiary are skewing the numbers overall for Santa Barbara County,” said CA 24th District Congressman Salud Carbajal.

To reopen, the Governor mandates no more than one positive case per 10,000 people.

“That is still going to be a difficult standard outside the prison for the county to reach,” said Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors 4th District Supervisor Elect Bob Nelson.

That mandate means the county can't have more than 4 cases a day or any COVID-19 deaths in a two-week period to reopen. The prison's COVID-19 numbers far exceed that.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that of the 2,704 inmates over 1,000 have tested positive.

“As we do more testing we are obviously going to get more positive cases,” said Nelson.

The Board of Supervisors requested the Governor measure instead using a metric of a less than 10% positivity rate in tests.

“Even though many people who work at the prison live in our community - the general population is what we are looking at here,” said Nelson.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham outlined in their letter of appeal that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has consistently re-buffered their attempts to help the outbreak and get information on the magnitude of infection.

Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne says a slow response to the outbreak contributed to the high numbers. She said the city and county helped where it could, but much of the issue was out of their hands.

“It's a federal institutional and it's a prison and we are not all allowed to just rush in. The county did help do testing of the prison employees. That was in response to finally learning the prison didn't have all the test they needed. I feel for the employees there because I don't think they got the supplies and tools they needed early enough,” said Mayor Osborne.

Leaders say de-annexing the prison from city limits is not an option and excluding Lompoc solely from reopening is also not a viable option.

Officials hope to get a response from the Governor's Office in the next day or two. We will have those updates as they come in.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus
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Naja Hill

Naja Hill is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Naja, click here.

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