Brown: Delay Moving Prisoners Following Valley Fever Outbreak
On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration in a court filing saidÂ that it would be premature to transfer more than 3,000 inmates out of two state prisons because of an outbreak of valley fever until more is known about the situation, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/6).
About Valley Fever
Researchers estimate that more than 150,000 people nationwide contract an airborne fungus known as valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, each year.
The cocci fungus is commonly found in soil in much of the Southwestern U.S., and is especially common in California's Central Valley.
People can contract valley fever by breathing in cocci fungal spores.
Details of Current Outbreak
Last week, CDC began investigating the deaths of more than three dozen California inmates who had contracted the fungus at Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons in San Joaquin Valley.
The investigationÂ was launchedÂ after federal receiver J. Clark Kelso -- who is charged with monitoring the state's prison health care system -- ordered the relocation of about 3,200 high-risk inmates from the two prisons (California Healthline, 5/2).
Details of Filing
In the filing, the Brown administration says that U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson should wait for the CDC's findings before enforcing Kelso's order.
The filing says that the complexity ofÂ swapping high-risk inmates with other inmates who are less susceptible to valley fever makes it difficult to comply with Kelso's order. It adds that the order is unclear about which inmates should be moved and which are able to stay in the facilities.
In addition, the administration says that the state should not transfer the inmates until officials learn whether actions taken by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are effective in limiting the exposure of all prisoners and staff to dust that carries the fungus.
Such actions include:
- Trying to control dust during construction;
- Considering strategies to protect inmates and staff from dusty areas;
- Offering surgical masks to inmates and staff;
- Providing inmates and employees with educational materials; and
- Installing air filters.
Reaction to Filing
Don Specter -- director of the Prison Law Office, which represents inmates -- said the state has known about the problem of valley fever in prison facilities since 2006 but has not taken appropriate action.Meanwhile, Henderson has scheduled a June 17 hearing on the issue (AP/Sacramento, 5/6). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.