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COVID-19 cases in San Diego County jails continue to rise

On November 20, the Sheriff’s Department announced it would suspend all in-person visitation at the jails.

Coronavirus cases continue to spike in the San Diego County jail system and now the union that represents the staff members there is speaking out.

Public health officials also talked about the rise of COVID-19 cases in local jails Wednesday afternoon. At the press conference, county health officials said the number of COVID-19 cases in county jails hasn’t increased that much. However, the union rep for the jail’s staff painted a different picture.

“So, the number of cases at the jails has increased slightly, but it is a small increase. So, it is not an overwhelming number,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County Public Health Officer.

Wooten said the cases in the county jail system are manageable and that inmates are being isolated and treated if they test positive for coronavirus. The County Sheriff’s Department reported a total of 275 people in seven facilities, including staff and inmates, have tested positive as of November 30 and 90 inmates are being quarantined. Now the union that represents the workers is saying the county isn’t doing enough to protect them.

“One of the things we are asking of the sheriff’s [department] is to be more transparent and let us know when there are exposures in the areas where our folks work,” said David Garcias, President of the SEIU San Diego chapter.

Garcias said there have been at least 36 staff members to test positive. One counselor at the Las Colinas Women’s jail died last month from coronavirus.

“They’re providing medical services in those facilities to make sure that the detainees are kept healthy. So, I just think there needs to be more staff, more PPEs and a real assessment of how to prevent exposure by preventing the movement of detainees to different facilities,” Garcias said. 

On November 20, the sheriff’s department announced it would suspend all in-person visitation at the jails, after multiple COVID-19 outbreaks. Still, the number of cases continued to go up.

“The cases that are being seen are managed. There are locations for the individuals to be isolated as well as those exposed to be quarantined,” Wooten said.  

Public Health officials did not address whether or not inmates would be given a vaccine at Wednesday’s press briefing.  

News 8 also reached out to the sheriff’s department for comment and we were referred to COVID-19 case information released in mid-November and to safety protocols listed on their website.