11 inmates fall ill with COVID-19 in Alameda County Jail

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DUBLIN, Calif. (KRON) — Eleven inmates in Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past four days, Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly told KRON4.

The first inmate was diagnosed on Saturday, placed in the jail’s medical facility, and was listed in stable condition. An investigation is underway to identify staff members and inmates who had close contact with any of the 11 people. The virus spread within the jail, and impacted pods are under quarantine.

Santa Rita Jail has dramatically reduced its population since the COVID-19 outbreak began. More than 600 inmates were released as part of a mitigation strategy. In addition, sheriff’s deputies out on patrol were directed to minimize new arrests.

“We are seeing less arrests from law enforcement … at least 50 percent,” Kelly said. “The people coming out are exceeding the number of people coming into the jail.”

Some of the released inmates have already been re-arrested for committing new offenses, and they were re-booked into jail. But overall, there have been no major crime incidents in Alameda County due to the inmate release program, Kelly said.

“We want to let communities know that we are still focused on public safety. People who do commit serious offenses will be booked into our jail,” Kelly said.

About 2,000 inmates remain in Santa Rita Jail.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation secretary Ralph Diaz said, “We do not take these new measures lightly. Our first commitment at CDCR is ensuring safety – of our staff, of the incarcerated population, of others inside our institutions, and of the community at large. However, in the face of a global pandemic, we must consider the risk of COVID-19 infection as a grave threat to safety, too.”

The state prison and jail system has taken other steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Those measures include:

·       Suspension of intake from county jails, projected to reduce the population by 3,000 within 30 days

·       Suspension of visitation; inmates will get additional free phone calls to their loved ones, made available through a partnership with inmate telephone network provider Global Tel Link (GTL)  

·       Suspension of access by volunteers and rehabilitative program providers

·       Suspension of inmate movement, other than for critical purposes

·       Measures to support increased physical distancing, including reducing the number of inmates who use common spaces at the same time

·       Reinforced commitment to hygiene both institutional and personal, including greater availability of soap and hand sanitizer.

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