Santa Clara County jails are currently experiencing the highest level of active COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated population, continuing an increase that started earlier this month and now surpassed the peak of a record string of outbreaks in January.
Data reported in an online dashboard maintained by the sheriff’s office shows there were 140 active infections in the jails through Friday, which consist of the Elmwood Correctional Complex in Milpitas and the main prison in San jose. Most of the current spike in cases has been centered in the Elmwood facility, where people live under minimum and medium security surveillance, primarily in barracks and dormitories.
That figure represents a more than eightfold increase since Nov. 3, when the spike started with 15 reported cases in one day.
On Tuesday, the province recorded 30 cases in one day, the largest one-day count since January, as winter-induced increases across the country continued. But that was a time before vaccines were widely available, and the current surge in South Bay prisons still surpasses that early year when the highest number of active cases was 127.
Vaccinations are available on request for those in prison, the sheriff said in a statement earlier this week. But inmates have complained to relatives — who in turn have contacted this news organization — that booster shots were not offered, contesting the sheriff’s claim that inmates were given masks three times a week or on request.
The number of active cases may also underreport the full spread of the virus in prison, as the online COVID-19 dashboard maintained by the sheriff’s office has a reporting delay between daily new cases and the total active cases. cases.
Deputy Russell Davis, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said some of the reported spike in cases is due to increased COVID-19 testing by the custody health department.
Several relatives of people held in Elmwood said M8, a four-room male dormitory that can accommodate 60 people each and has been hit frequently by outbreaks, has been largely, if not completely, evacuated. They asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against their loved ones for speaking out.
In a general statement, the sheriff’s office said that “once an infection is identified in a residential area, the health service and staff will immediately isolate the affected area to limit movement in/out of the housing unit. In addition, construction-related repairs to our facility will cause temporary closures of residential areas.”
Since the pandemic’s initially recognized onset in March 2020, Santa Clara County jails have recorded a total of 888 COVID-19 infections through Friday, of which 622 have been taken into custody — instead of testing positive on booking .
In the first 15 days of January, prisons registered 202 infections in custody. In the first 11 days of November, that totals 139, meaning the two peaks, pre- and post-vaccine, account for 55% of prison-acquired infections in the 20 months of the recognized pandemic period.
The risk of infection in the prisons has also ensnared staff. Cal/OSHA, the state watchdog for workplace injuries, launched a formal inspection on Oct. 26 after being warned by the sheriff’s office that a correctional deputy sheriff had been hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection while on duty. incurred. An agency spokesman confirmed that the deputy has been assigned to Elmwood Prison.
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