Governor Newsom: Provide ‘Drive-Through’ Testing for Staff at California’s Prisons

by on March 16, 2020 · 0 comments

in California, Health

Governor Newsom:  Make the Call Re: Coronavirus

California is one of the best educated, richest, most advanced states on the planet. In fact, we are really an “nation-state.”

We have the talent, the wealth, the high-tech labs and universities capable of leading the nation in innovative responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Ideas and discipline are required for success in any crisis.

So, here is one simple idea that can help stop an explosion of infections in an existing “petri-dish” environment.

These people cannot “stay home;” cannot “shelter in place” and cannot avoid probable infections. Yes, these are the front-line responders—firefighters, nurses, doctors, and other health care providers.  That is common knowledge.

However, often overlooked are their less popular clients—the homeless and prisoners.  California has the largest populations of these individuals as well. Local governments will provide necessary care for their homeless populations — some greater than others.

However, California — with one of the largest prison populations in the country — roughly 160,000 inmates, has not yet been innovative. Wisely, Governor, you have stopped family visitations in those prisons, even as prisoners in Italy have rioted over such an order — leaving 12 fatalities.

While not a given in California’s system, such disruptions are not outside the realm of possibilities — as a riot at Donovan last year proved.

Think about it.  If you can’t protect the doctors, nurses, mental-health care-givers as well as the custody staff — you can’t protect the prisoners — and possible unpleasant consequences in a pandemic.

So, here is a positive idea on how to protect them all — at the same time.

Kaiser Permanente has already begun “drive-through” testing for its patients.  They started small and are expanding their sites. California’s prison authority (CDCR) can do likewise.  And San Diego can lead.

RJD (Donovan) prison houses close to 4,000 prisoners with over 2500 staff — and is home to some of the oldest, sickest, and most disabled prisoners in the state.

Why not partner with Kaiser Permanente and begin a pilot project to provide drive-through testing for all staff and family members at a site nearby?  The prison, itself, is located in an area with ample surrounding space capable of supporting a drive-through testing site.

If the staff are tested via drive-throughs — (and those infected stay home); if their families are also tested (and respond accordingly); if the prisoners are attended (as needed) the fears and panic will recede, and the contagion will not spread exponentially.

Think of the savings.  The nurses and custody officer are already on site.  The mounting costs of potential sick leave and overtime will be minimal.  All that is needed already exists. You don’t need to wait for the federal government or the Center of Disease Control.

California is a nation-state.  Act accordingly. If such a pilot program works, it could be expanded statewide quickly.

All that is needed is the imagination, discipline and cooperation between the CDCR and Kaiser. A phone call costs nothing.  This idea may prove priceless.

Governor Newsom: Make that call.

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