Late last week, several correctional officers displayed symptoms of illness at work and have since tested positive for Covid-19.
As a result, 15 correctional officers are now off work, according to a press release sent by Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sergeant Christopher Shearer. No incarcerated people have tested positive or shown symptoms of illness, the press release states.
Nine correctional officers tested positive for the disease. An additional six officers are quarantined based on contact with infected coworkers, the release says. Contact tracers from the county’s Health Services Agency are attempting to determine the source of the outbreak.
In consultation with the health department, all correctional staff and incarcerated people will be tested during the next 72 hours as of the press release time Monday, and people will be treated or quarantined as necessary.
“Enhanced safety procedures, screening, and hygiene protocols to protect staff and incarcerated persons were put in place in March and have been updated as new information and methods to prevent infections develop,” the statement says. “The sheriff’s office will continue to work closely with the health department to reduce the likelihood of further spread of the virus in correctional facilities.”
The release did not specify which correctional facilities are impacted, but this is the first outbreak in any Santa Cruz County jail. Beyond Santa Cruz, outbreaks in jails have posed a serious concern.
So far, at least 200,000 inmates nationwide have already been infected with Covid-19, and at least 1,450 inmates and correctional officers have died from the virus, according to a database maintained by The New York Times—numbers that likely represent an undercount, the Times reported.
Additionally, older inmates could show particular medical vulnerability after decades of “hard living,” Dr. Charles Lee, president-elect of the American College of Correctional Physicians, told the Times.
“From my experience, their physiological age is generally 20 years greater than their chronologic age,” he said, “from drugs, from fights, from being incarcerated and homeless, and not getting health care.”