Hospital in San Mateo County Treating COVID-19 Patients From San Quentin’s Outbreak

A view of the San Quentin State Prison, which is California's oldest correctional facility.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

At least 1,135 people incarcerated at San Quentin have active cases of COVID-19, according to state correctional statistics.

A dozen of those individuals have been transferred from the prison to Seton Medical Center in Daly City to receive care. Corrections officials told San Mateo County to expect up to 50 patients ill from the prison outbreak.

But San Mateo County’s coronavirus dashboard does not discern between patients transferred from San Quentin and people who were infected within the community.

County Supervisor David Canepa said he’s worried the numbers on the dashboard issue could lead the public to assume the virus is spreading more rapidly in San Mateo County than is the case.

“I want to alleviate that right away,” Canepa said during a supervisors' meeting on Monday.

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County Health Officer Louise Rogers told the supervisors that the county is meeting state hospitalization benchmarks related to reopening the economy “but with the numbers of transfers from the prison system that may be thrown off; we'll be trying to account for that in our reporting.”

“One of my questions is how to do that,” she said. “It isn't called out in the data and it can't really be because they are all patients. We may need to do some separate accounting, but I'm not sure exactly how. But I understand the need.”

Journalists, epidemiologists and the public all follow the data dashboard closely.

San Mateo County’s dashboard mirrors reporting software used by most Bay Area counties and the state, the same data problem could appear in other places where hospitals are taking in patients from prisons.

San Francisco reports the number of currently hospitalized patients who have been transferred from another location on its dashboard, a practice that dates back to when the city provided care to people who fell ill with the virus on a cruise ship.

As of Wednesday, corrections officials have transferred 71 patients with COVID-19 from state prisons to hospitals for treatment, including 43 people from San Quentin.

Corrections officers monitor the incarcerated individuals who receive care at hospitals outside of the prison system.

Canepa said the county can play an important role in treating sick people from San Quentin’s outbreak.

“Everyone deserves care and everyone deserves to get better and get well,” he said. “It's about compassion. It's about care.”