San Quentin has been hit with another virus. Residents seem to not be able to catch a break from suffering through the effects and consequences caused by virus outbreaks.
From COVID-19 woes to a stomach virus now known as gastroenteritis or, the Norovirus better known as a form of stomach flu.
The Gastroenteritis virus (Stomach flu), has made its way through other parts of the prison but, it hit West Block the hardest. The number of residents who had the virus is inaccurately known so far. It is believed to be in the hundreds.
SQ residents are wondering how are all these viruses are getting into the prison and why is it that residents are the ones who are being most affected by them.
What is it that is actually causing this new virus here? Where did it come from? Many residents speculate that it came from the pigeon droppings that are stained around the eating tables residents use.
Residents say that the rats in the kitchen poop over the food trays when workers left trays unattended overnight. And particles are served with food.
Moreover, residents believe that SQ is just overcrowded and it is too antiquated to still be a functioning prison.
“Prisons can become breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses, and diseases can spread like wildfire,” said long-term resident Anthony Watkins, who has been incarcerated for 23 years now on a life sentence. Watkins has also been here at the Q when other virus outbreaks have spurred.
“In the past 10 years, many viruses have broken out at San Quentin. The Norovirus was here before also Staphylococcus, known as a Staph infection. We had a Chickenpox scare. I was here when the legionnaires’ disease hit in 2017 and people ended up with pneumonia,” said Watkins.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the prison in 2020, Watkins was one of the 2000 plus residents who was affected by it. He contracted the virus and endure some of the complications that come with the virus. Not only did he absorb the mental and physical issues caused by the virus’ he also was subjected to other inconveniences such as quarantines.
Quarantines have been used to try to contain viruses’ that occur at the prison. Resi-dents who are not sick with “Prisons can become breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses, and diseases can spread like wildfire. “the virus has to endure these shutdowns as if they too are sick. Quarantine, which is basically another form of lock-down does not really cure the virus itself, but it does cause frustration to the residents.
“It seems that quarantine and ‘so called’ modified program has become the new normal,” resident Eric M. said. “I welcome the day when we (West Block) can resume the activities that make us part of this SQ community.” Since the most recent virus hit West Block the hardest, the Unit was quarantine for the longest duration.
Most residents do not report being sick to the Medical staff for fear of being confined to quarters or locked down. That’s a fear residents shared during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic at the prison.