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Inmates With Sleep Apnea Asked To Disable Their Breathing Machines

(Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
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COVID-19 has wrought all sorts of changes in the way society operates -- here's one more: California's state prisons are asking inmates with sleep apnea to stop using CPAP machines that help them breathe.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is worried that the machines can spray droplets into the air, potentially endangering large numbers of inmates in prison dorms. It stresses that the program is voluntary, and that it won't disable CPAP's that are deemed "medically critical."

A loose fitting mask on a CPAP can raise the risk of spreading COVID-19 if the user has the virus, said Dr. Richard Castriotta, an internationally-known sleep expert at Keck Medicine of USC.

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But the increased odds of a heart attack or stroke for someone who stops using the machine is a greater risk, he told us, adding that 70% of people who have a stroke have sleep apnea.

We spoke with inmates in Chino with sleep apnea who said they were told they could lose prison jobs or be transferred if they didn't agree to have their CPAPs disabled. A prison spokesman didn't answer our question about whether that's going on. He did say no inmates will be punished if they refuse to stop using the device.


Fighting Coronavirus, State Prisons Seek To Disable Inmate's Sleep Apnea Machine

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