By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
COVID-19 outbreak reported at county jail
• Eight staffers, 25 inmates test positive for COVID-19
Stanislaus County Jail corridor

The Stanislaus County jail was largely able to escape an outbreak of COVID-19 during the summer surge, but now as cases continue to mount again throughout the state, the facility is reporting a rash of infections.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department announced on Nov. 24 that 25 inmates and eight staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, «after a minor outbreak inside one of the Sheriff’s Custodial facilities,» the sheriff’s department said in a press release.

The department is working to contain the spread of the virus by implementing isolation and quarantine procedures.

The outbreak was first brought to light on Nov. 16 during a screening process before transporting inmates to facilities in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“CDCR requires a negative test before we can transport an inmate into their custody,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Martinez. “We tested 70 inmates who were to be transported and one of them came back positive.”

The inmate who tested positive for the virus had been housed with other inmates in a minimum/medium housing unit. The unit 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.

The unit is supervised by the same staff, so the inmates in the other two pods needed to be tested as well. That turned up eight more positive tests in the third pod. The inmates in the second pod all have tested negative, according to the sheriff’s department.

Of the staff members in that unit, eight tested positive.

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.

“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.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic started to reach Stanislaus County in March, the sheriff’s department instituted screening and prevention protocols that kept the number of infections down to six between March and Nov. 16.

“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, we have had a daily average population of approximately 1,100 inmates,” Dirkse continued. “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. 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.”

As of Tuesday, Stanislaus County has recorded 22,162 COVID-19 cases. Of those, 426 have resulted in death and 1,953 are presumed currently active. A total of 19,783 have been documented as recovered.