12th California inmate dies of COVID-19 at same institution; 3rd death in 4 days

Two more California inmates have died of the coronavirus bringing the total number 12 at the same San Bernardino County institution, the California Department of Corrections announced on Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Dana Simas said both men had been held at the California Institution for Men in Chino and died at hospitals.

One man was pronounced dead on Tuesday and another was pronounced dead on Wednesday. These are the 11th and 12th COVID-related deaths at the institution, Simas said.


The 10th-COVID-related death at the same prison was reported on Sunday. The day before that, a  correctional officer died in Riverside County of the disease, the agency said. 

Simas said no additional information would be provided to protect their medical privacy. 

The Chino prison currently has 446 incarcerated people who are actively positive for COVID-19.

Activists have been urging the state to release more prisoners to free them from crowded conditions, and many prisoners have said they are living in "inhumane conditions" that lack the necessary hygiene and social distancing to prevent the spread of the disease.

The department has argued that they are following all the proper protocols. 

Simas said that in light of the deaths and growing number of cases, the Department of Corrections has identified nearly 700 inmates in dormitory housing who are at a potentially higher risk for COVID-19 and they are moving them to other facilities in the state in small groups.

California has granted an early release to 3,500 inmates across the state, although all of them were within 60 days of parole.

A spokeswoman said there are no plans to free anyone else.

California’s 35 prisons have long been overcrowded and currently house close to 109,000 inmates. That is roughly 24,000 overcapacity.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@foxtv.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez