Twenty-five inmates and eight staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 after a minor outbreak inside one of the Sheriff’s Custodial facilities in Stanislaus County. Additional isolation and quarantine procedures have been put in place to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus to other areas of the jail.
In a press release issued late Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 24, authorities indicated the first cases were confirmed a week prior to the announcement.
The outbreak was discovered on Nov. 16 while screening inmates in preparation to be transported to CDCR, the release indicated.
“CDCR requires a negative test before we can transport an inmate into their custody,” said Sheriff’s Captain Frank Martinez. “We tested 70 inmates who were to be transported and one of them came back positive.”
The inmate who had the positive test was housed in a minimum/medium housing unit which is comprised of three separate pods which each have a maximum occupancy of 64 inmates. There were 56 inmates housed in the same unit with the one who tested positive and all of them were tested as well. Sixteen of those inmates tested positive.
Due to the fact that the three housing areas were supervised by the same staff, all inmates in the other two housing units were tested as well. In one of the other units, all inmates have received a negative result. In the third unit, there were an additional eight positive tests. Eight staff members who worked in that area have tested positive for COVID-19.
“All of the inmates housed in the affected areas have been quarantined and isolated from the rest of the inmate population,” said Martinez. “We have medical staff on hand to treat the inmates and protocol in place to help prevent the spread of the virus within our facilities.”
So far, all of the inmates and staff have either been asymptomatic or have had very minor symptoms and there has been no need for advanced medical care.
In March, the custody facilities instituted strict protocol for screening and prevention for COVID-19. From late March until the mid-November outbreak, these preventative measures resulted in identifying six inmates who were positive for COVID-19 and the facilities were able to isolate them to prevent spread.
“I am very impressed with my staff and their ability to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities to this point,” said Sheriff Jeff Dirkse. “The fact that we have a minor break-out is not a surprise when you consider the sheer numbers of people that we deal with in a congregate living setting. The surprise is that we were able to avoid it for this long and that’s a testament to the hard work and setting high procedural standards.”
Since March, added the sheriff, “we have had a daily average population of approximately 1,100 inmates. Add to that the fact that we have had 11,451 new bookings, and it becomes apparent that there are a lot of opportunities for COVID-19 to be introduced into the facility.”
He noted that the “minor outbreak is not something that was unexpected and I am confident that it is something that my team will be able to manage.”