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San Diego sheriff announces COVID-19 cases at 3 county jails; 3 inmates hospitalized

 The Sheriff’s Department said that due to the outbreaks, it was cutting off in-person social visits at all county jails beginning Saturday

SAN DIEGO —  Three inmates from George F. Bailey Detention Facility were hospitalized Friday with cases of COVID-19, and there are now active cases at three county jail facilities, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s officials determined that an inmate who was at the facility likely spread the coronavirus when transferred to the Vista Detention Facility, where that inmate and eight others have tested positive for COVID-19, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Ricardo Lopez said in a statement.

A separate outbreak has also been detected at the East Mesa Reentry Facility, where at least four inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, Lopez said.

Due to the outbreaks, the Sheriff’s Department said it was cutting off all in-person social visits at county jails beginning Saturday, and going back to more restrictive protocols first put in place in late March, near the beginning of the pandemic.

“This is being done to protect the health of inmates and staff,” Lopez said, adding that “video visitations” would still be allowed.

Coronavirus infections exploded last week at George Bailey, with 46 inmates receiving positive tests on Nov. 14. On Monday, the Sheriff’s Department said 55 inmates at the facility had recently tested positive.

Among those who had tested positive as of Monday, two inmates had been released from custody and one had been taken to Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center for treatment, according to an internal jail memo reviewed by the Union-Tribune.

On Friday, Sharp Chula Vista reported 90 percent of its staffed beds were occupied, about half by patients with COVID-19 diagnoses.

The number of inmates from the facility receiving hospital care jumped to three on Friday, according to the news release from Lopez.

Prior to the discovery of the outbreak at George Bailey, an inmate from there was transferred to the Vista Detention Facility, where that inmate and eight others have subsequently tested positive, Lopez said.

At the East Mesa Reentry Facility — a low-security facility with dorm-style housing units — an inmate reported feeling sick sometime this week with “mild respiratory symptoms,” Lopez said. That inmate and three others have since tested positive for the virus.

News of the jail outbreaks came the same day San Diego County announced 1,091 new coronavirus cases, a new single-day record.

A study published last month in the Annals of Epidemiology found that “jails are epicenters of COVID-19 transmission in the United States.”

The study’s authors wrote that jails “present an ideal setting for infections to spread” because “incarcerated individuals are at higher risk for infection due to unsanitary living conditions and inability to socially distance.” Additionally, the authors wrote that “correctional officers rarely have public health training, and correctional health systems are chronically underfunded.”

Two of the study’s authors, from Stanford University, said an outbreak inside a jail threatens the community outside because “the people who work there enter and leave every day. They can take the virus out into the community when they go home at night.”


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