Sheriff’s department unsure how 78 inmates contracted COVID-19

Sheriff Boudreaux, health officials hold press conference over current outbreak at county jail

VISALIA – A COVID-19 outbreak at the Bob Wiley detention facility prompted Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and county health officials to hold a press conference last week.

According to the Sheriff 78 inmates tested positive for the virus, and were 12 days into a 14 day quarantine as of Thursday, Oct. 21. Boudreaux said they were first made aware of the virus when an inmate reported feeling ill after returning from court.

It is highly unlikely the inmate contracted the virus while in court. Tulare County Health and Human Services director, Tim Lutz said after the press conference that they are unsure how the virus got into the jail at all.

When the inmate returned from court jail staff tested everyone in the inmate’s unit to find the additional 78 positive tests. Boudreaux said all of them were asymptomatic, and were unaware they had the virus. Although, at least one other inmate required hospitalization. That notwithstanding, Boudreaux and county health officials contacted the state for help with staffing.

“I have reached out to our health director asking for a state strike team…to come down and provide increase medical services for those who are affected. One of the things that strike team is able to provide is antibodies,” Boudreaux said.

Lutz said monoclonal antibody treatments—these treatments are given in mild to moderate cases for adults who are at high risk of progressing to a more severe case—will be administered. The treatment is often done in a clinic but Lutz said, “Understandably with an incarcerated population that’s not an effective way to get them so we felt strongly that on site was our best approach but also utilizing best practices to minimize any infections to get past this outbreak.”

Of the 78 inmates who were positive with COVID-19, only 17 were vaccinated. There was one inmate who was hospitalized with the virus, and was not vaccinated. Boudreaux said that his condition was improving, though.

The jail has been active in offering vaccines to inmates. Lutz said they have administered 1,281 inmates with the vaccine, and 488 of them have had both doses. The inmate who had come back from court that initiated testing in the unit was fully vaccinated. Boudreaux said that for the time being the jail has been closed to anyone from the outside who might visit inmates.

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