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California prison’s dental clinic cited for COVID-19 risks

September 4, 2020 GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California’s workplace safety regulator has ordered the San Quentin Prison dental clinic to stop drilling and other work because unsafe practices are spreading COVID-19, it was reported Thursday.

The California Division of Occupational Health and Safety said workers were being put at risk of infection and banned dental work that sprays droplets from the patient’s mouth until the prison can meet a list of safety conditions, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The prison in the San Francisco Bay Area is the California lockup hit hardest by the coronavirus. More than 2,200 inmates — about two-thirds of the prison population — have been infected, along with nearly 300 employees. Twenty-six inmates — including several on death row — have died from confirmed or suspected infections.

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The order issued Wednesday said the prison dental clinic failed to set up isolation rooms for high-hazard procedures, failed to provide air-purifying respirators and didn’t clearly relay the COVID-19 infection status of patients to the dentists, dental hygienists and correction officers.

Asked whether prison officials refuted the allegations, Dana Simas, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the health and safety of inmates and staff was a “top priority,” the Chronicle reported.

Simas said that prison officials would work closely with the state “to fully explain all of the actions San Quentin’s dental program has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and to directly address OSHA’s concerns.”