Santa Clara County reports a 4th inmate who tested positive for COVID-19

SAN JOSE — The Santa Clara County jail system recorded its fourth case of an inmate with COVID-19, who tested positive over the Memorial Day weekend, the sheriff’s office has confirmed.

The inmate, described as a person arrested by San Jose police on suspicion of “numerous felonies,” was booked May 9 and placed into a quarantine unit where new inmates are held for 14 days, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Sunday, according to a COVID-19 online dashboard from the agency, the positive test was reported, meaning that the inmate was confirmed to have the virus at the end of the quarantine period. It was not immediately clear if or when the person exhibited symptoms.

Following the positive test, the sheriff’s office said the inmate was being held at the Elmwood Correctional Complex in Milpitas, in an isolated in a reverse-airflow room designed to keep germs from leaving — akin to a negative-pressure room at a hospital — and is being monitored by jail medical staff.

The three South Bay inmates who previously tested positive for COVID-19 were also arrested by San Jose police, and none are currently in custody. The sheriff’s office reported that as of Tuesday, 297 inmates have been tested for the virus.

Eleven members of the jail staff, nine correctional deputies and two civilian employees, have tested positive for the virus since March, but most have recovered and returned to work. A patrol deputy and records technician have also contracted COVID-19 during the same time frame. The sheriff’s office reports that it has tested 113 of its employees.

The risk of a jail-based virus outbreak has fueled efforts in the Bay Area to decrease crowding through the early release of nonviolent and low-level pretrial detainees, and the release of offenders with expiring jail sentences or who are in frail health. The state Judicial Council also instituted emergency measures including extending speedy trial deadlines and waiving bail for misdemeanors and some low-level felonies.

In Santa Clara County, the jail population as Tuesday morning was at 2,173, a 32% decrease from the roughly 3,200 inmates held in the county as of mid-March when the nation’s first shelter-in-place order was issued in the region.

Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail has recorded at least 54 COVID-19 cases among its inmate population since the pandemic arrived in the area. San Francisco jails have recorded at least four cases, Contra Costa County has recorded at least one jail case, and San Mateo County has not publicly reported an in-custody COVID-19 case to date.

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Author: Robert Salonga