The federal court official in charge of running healthcare for California's troubled prison system on Monday directed the state to immediately remove more than a third of the inmates at two state prisons because of the risk of valley fever.
The directive from J. Clark Kelso follows an expert's report filed in U.S. District Court last week concluding that the incidence of the potentially fatal fungus poses a "public health emergency."
California corrections officials had no immediate response, though the department said last month it was working on its own valley fever response plan.
J. Clark Kelso, appointed to run prison healthcare after a federal panel determined that the care being provided by the state was unconstitutionally cruel, decided not to wait.
"The state of California has known since 2006 that segments of the inmate population were at a greater risk for contracting valley fever, and mitigation efforts undertaken by CDCR to date have proven ineffective," Joyce Hayhoe, Kelso's spokeswoman, said in a written statement. "As a result, the receiver has decided that immediate steps are necessary to prevent further loss of life."
Kelso's directive requires the state corrections department to remove African American, Filipino and HIV-infected inmates from Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons, as well as others who are at high risk of contracting the disease.
There are more than 8,200 inmates at the two prisons. Hayhoe said the medical receiver estimates 40% -- or 3,280 -- must be moved immediately.