Last updated January 26, 2022
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) have been taking immediate steps to protect those who live in, work at, and visit our state prisons against the surge of the Omicron variant. View the Population Tracker here.
To respond to an increase in cases throughout the system, CDCR and CCHCS have implemented measures to mitigate spread of COVID-19 in a way that aligns with public health and public safety. Important updates follow:
Movement and programming
In order to limit movement between and throughout institutions to curb transmission of COVID-19, the mandatory statewide modified program has been extended through Sunday, February 6, 2022.
During this temporary modified programming, all movement will be restricted to essential moves only, which will be conducted in accordance with the Movement Matrix. The matrix includes quarantine, testing, and isolation mandates for transfers between and throughout institutions and facilities.
Health care services will be limited to essential clinical services including urgent/emergent and priority needs.
Dayroom activity, canteen, and phone calls are still permitted so long as physical distancing is maintained. Only one housing unit/dorm will participate in recreation at a time to avoid mixing units. Education/vocation/Substance Use Disorder Treatment courses, and religious programs will be provided directly to the population in their housing units. Law libraries will be accessible via a paging system or where physical distancing can be maintained. Meals are preferred to be provided in-cell; however, if a facility is safely able to offer meals in dining halls only one housing unit will be allowed at a time, occupancy will be reduced, physical distancing must be maintained, and high-touch areas and tables will be disinfected between uses.
Urgent/emergency legal visits will be conducted via telephone or video conference.
County jail intake has been suspended at Wasco State Prison (WSP) since December 29, 2021. Intake at North Kern State Prison (NKSP) is suspended as of January 10, 2022. On January 20, 2022, intake at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) was also suspended. Limited intake will begin at NKSP the week of January 31, 2022, and will remain suspended at WSP and CCWF through at least February 6, 2022. After that, the situation will be reassessed contingent on COVID cases at the prisons.
The Department is closely following the Roadmap to Reopening, which follows guidance from the federal Receiver and public health experts, and significantly restricts movement, programming, and visitation at institutions experiencing a current outbreak. To see what phase of reopening a specific institution’s facility is in, go to the Population Tracker and click on the “Reopening tab.”
Testing for population
CCHCS is conducting testing of the incarcerated population in accordance with the testing protocols outlined in the COVID-19 Interim Guidance. This includes testing and implementing quarantine and isolation measures as deemed necessary.
Effective January 25, 2022, incarcerated critical workers who are in quarantine housing due to exposure may now follow the same process to return to work as exposed staff if the Warden and CEO have decided the institution is in Contingency Staffing levels (meaning there are not enough workers). They must take a rapid test each workday for 10 days, and a viral test on day 10. They will leave work immediately if they test positive. These workers must wear a KN95 mask at all times, unless they work in an area where an N95 is required.
Testing and vaccination for employees
We have implemented the August 19, 2021 CDPH order requiring vaccinations for employees and incarcerated workers in health care settings and are working to implement the December 22, 2021 CDPH order mandating those in health care settings to receive the vaccine booster when eligible.
We continue to require ongoing twice-weekly testing for unvaccinated employees.
If an institution’s Warden and CEO, in consultation with their Associate Director and Regional Health Care Executive, determines their staffing levels are at contingency levels, employees who have had significant exposure to COVID-19 may be permitted to return to work. These employees must test daily for seven days, and will leave work immediately if a test is positive. These employees must also wear an N95 mask while at work.
The vaccination program has resulted in the vaccination of 81% of the population and 71% of employees being fully vaccinated—a significant increase from the fall. We have also made tremendous progress in administering boosters to almost all eligible persons who wish to receive the booster. The vaccine and booster has been offered to every employee and member of the population who is eligible to receive it.
CDCR/CCHCS directions to the field are updated regularly here.
Quarantine and isolation
CDCR and CCHCS updated isolation and quarantine protocols in line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Patients who are in isolation – meaning they have been separated from non-positive or exposed individuals due to having active COVID-19 – may be released from isolation after 10 days instead of 14, if a health care provider determines it is safe to do so, and only if the patients meets all other criteria for release from isolation.
For patients in quarantine because they were exposed to somebody with COVID-19, health care staff can now allow return to normal housing after 10 days instead of 14, as long as the patient tests negative on day 10, and has no symptoms. Staff conduct rounds daily in quarantine units.
Personal Protective Equipment
Effective January 25, 2022, all employees and contractors who enter or work in isolation or quarantine areas shall be fit-tested and wear an N95 mask at all times. The N95 mask requirement also applies to staff who transport and/or guard isolation and quarantine patients. Transportation staff will be fit-tested and wear an N95 mask when transporting isolation or quarantine patients, or when entering or working in isolation or quarantine areas. For all other transfers, a KN95 mask will be worn.
All civil service employees and contractors who do not enter or work in isolation or quarantine areas shall wear a KN95 mask at all times while on CDCR institution/facility grounds.
Exceptions to N95 and KN95 masking requirements apply as follows:
- While actively and briefly eating or drinking, and only if a minimum of six feet of physical distance is maintained from all other individuals.
- When alone in an office with the door closed.
- When alone in a tower or enclosed control booth with no other individuals present.
- When outdoors, if a minimum of six feet of physical distance is maintained from all other individuals. An appropriate mask shall be kept on person at all times and shall be worn walking or standing within six feet of others.
Effective January 17, 2022, all residents shall be provided a minimum of two disposable procedure masks per week to replace the cloth PIA masks previously distributed. Effective January 24, 2022, all residents shall be offered one KN-95 respirator per week, which they can choose to wear for enhanced protection. The KN-95 respirator or procedure mask are preferred, rather than the cloth face covering.
Residents who have work assignments in isolation or quarantine areas must be fit-tested and wear an N-95 in those settings. They will be provided N-95 replacements at the beginning of each work shift and as often as needed or requested.
In-person and family visiting were suspended effective Saturday, January 8, 2022, and remain suspended until further notice.
We understand this is a big hardship for the population and their loved ones, but it’s a necessary public health measure to reduce risk to thousands of visitors at our institutions while we seek to control this highly transmissible COVID-19 variant.
In lieu of in-person visiting, CDCR will continue to offer video visits at its institutions. Please continue to check the Visitation webpage for the latest updates and the Facility Status webpage for the schedule at each institution.
Reactivation of COVID-19 Department Operations Center (DOC)
On March 21, 2021, CDCR and CCHCS demobilized the Department Operations Center (DOC) and transitioned to the COVID-19 Support Team (CST) in response to the drop in active COVID-19 cases within the institutions.
The DOC is a central location where leadership and experts monitor information, prepare for known and unknown events, and exchange information in order to make decisions and provide guidance to institutions statewide quickly.
With the recent development of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, CDCR and CCHCS have made the decision to reactivate the DOC on a smaller scale. Effective January 6, 2022, the DOC has been reactivated, with hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Prior to entering into an institution/facility, headquarters, regional or field office, each employee will complete a daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure. Employees shall not come to work nor enter any institutions, headquarters, regional or field offices, if they:
- Are experiencing COVID-related symptoms not caused by a diagnosed underlying health care condition or caused by a recent COVID-19 vaccination.
- Have been in close contact with anyone known to have a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 test or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment in the last 14 days regardless of vaccination status.
- Tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 10 days.
Board of Parole Hearings
In-person parole suitability hearings are suspended through March 31, 2022. All parole hearings will occur by videoconference. For all hearings that were previously scheduled to occur in-person, hearing panels will begin the hearing, assess whether effective communication can be established, and then make a determination concerning whether the hearing will be postponed, continued, or go forward as scheduled, consistent with the Board’s governing regulations. All parties will attend by videoconference, including the hearing panel, the incarcerated person, counsel, victims, victims’ next-of-kin, victim support persons, victim representatives, district attorney representatives, and observers. Only the incarcerated person (and in some cases, as noted below, their attorney) will be located at the institution for parole hearings scheduled through March 31, 2022.
All requirements for Board-appointed attorneys to consult with their clients in person are suspended until March 31. All attorneys and interpreters will attend hearings by videoconference, unless they choose to attend in-person (subject to applicable visitation protocols established by the prison where the person is housed). As such, the requirement that all Board-appointed attorneys attend hearings in person with their client is suspended through March 31, 2022.
Lastly, monthly executive board meetings will be conducted by videoconference through March 31, as authorized by the Executive Order issued by Governor Newsom on January 5, 2022.