Tulare County jail reports first coronavirus outbreak

Sheriff’s Department reports 11 inmates tested positive for coronavirus last week after going months without a single case

tulare county – No inmates being held in Tulare County had tested positive for the coronavirus as of June 19 but a week later, the cases jumped to 11.

On June 26, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department reported that 11 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 during a routine test of more than 200 inmates. Those inmates have been isolated and quarantined at the pretrial facility and are being monitored by medical staff. Their cells are disinfected and deep cleaned on a daily basis. Staff and other inmates who were possibly exposed to COVID-19 are currently being tested and awaiting results.

“Right now, we are working with Tulare County Health and Human Services to identify the source of this outbreak,” said Ashley Ritchie, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department. “We are also checking if other areas of the jail may have been impacted.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, all inmates in Tulare County jail facilities have been monitored and screened daily by medical staff. The Sheriff’s Department had gone up until Friday with no cases of COVID-19, a major reason why the county fought the early release of those arrested for misdemeanors or “low-level” crimes under the April 6 ruling by the Judicial Council of California. The entity, which oversees the state’s court system, stated the ruling was meant to “safely reduce jail populations” and curb the spread of COVID-19 in the jails, neither of which was a problem in rural counties like Tulare County. Sheriff Mike Boudreaux routinely pointed out that overcrowding has not been a problem in Tulare County, where county jails consistently had about 700 beds open for additional inmates. Instead, the law allowed many criminals to reoffend and the early release program included crimes such as human trafficking for forced labor, child abuse and neglect, elder abuse, auto theft, burglary and failing to register as a sex offender.

The revolving door of justice came to an end on June 20 after the Judicial Council’s recension of the COVID-19 emergency bail schedule.

Outbreaks among the incarcerated have been rising in California. In the last two weeks, there have been more than 1,400 new cases of COVID-19 among the state’s prison population. More than half of those (828) have come from San Quentin Prison but Valley institutions have also had outbreaks. Corcoran Prison and Avenal State Prison, both in Kings County, had 57 and 20 new cases respectively. Avenal has also had three deaths due to COVID, including one last week. That was the 21st inmate death due to the virus since the pandemic began.

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