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New COVID-19 outbreak: More than 100 active inmate cases at jail in Sacramento County

Sacramento Bee logo Sacramento Bee 8/5/2022 Michael McGough, The Sacramento Bee
A control room watches over six pods where inmates live at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, California, on March 1, 2012. The jail had an outbreak of 106 active inmate COVID-19 cases as of Aug. 3, 2022. © Renee C. Byer/The Sacramento Bee/TNS A control room watches over six pods where inmates live at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, California, on March 1, 2012. The jail had an outbreak of 106 active inmate COVID-19 cases as of Aug. 3, 2022.

Another COVID-19 outbreak is underway at one of Sacramento County’s two jail facilities, with the number of active inmate cases increasing more than sixfold in a week.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office in a weekly update reported 106 active infections as of Wednesday among inmates at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove. Sheriff’s officials reported just one active case at the downtown Main Jail.

That marks a week-over-week increase of 90 inmate cases in the county jail system, from 17 last week to 107 this week.

Of the 90 new cases, 13 were detected during the intake observation and quarantine period, according to the sheriff’s website.

During the omicron variant surge in January, the Sheriff’s Office released 203 inmates early due to outbreaks reported at that time of at least 76 concurrent cases at the downtown jail and 48 cases at RCCC. The combined total had nearly quadrupled from the prior week, then more than quadrupled to 248 cases at the downtown jail plus 339 cases at RCCC by early February.

Early inmate releases are not currently being conducted, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Rodney Grassmann said Friday.

“There are many considerations and variables for managing COVID-19 in our correctional facilities,” Grassmann said in a statement to The Sacramento Bee.

“We work in partnership with Adult Correctional Health (ACH) and routinely consult directly with Public Health to facilitate vaccine availability/education, testing, health checkups, quarantine as well as safety and sanitization measures.”

The sheriff’s website shows 3,152 inmates have received at least one dose of vaccine, including those who are no longer incarcerated, with 28 doses administered in the past week.

Staff conducted 819 inmate virus tests for the week ending Wednesday, meaning about 11% of tests returned positive, according to the Sheriff’s Office jail data dashboard.

“We find changes in case numbers within corrections tend to follow along with the activity and trends in our surrounding community,” Grassmann’s statement continued. “We follow the various guidance and protocols from CDC and Public Health regarding COVID-19 mitigation specific and unique for correctional facilities.

“We are not currently conducting early releases outside of routine operation.”

Sheriff’s officials this week reported a combined inmate population of 3,464 between the Main Jail and RCCC, nearly the same as the 3,461 inmates housed at the two jails when the January inmate releases were announced.

Spokespersons for the county health office and Adult Correctional Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday on the jail outbreak.

COVID-19 activity within Sacramento County’s general population appears to be on a slight decline following a few weeks of plateau, after growing steadily during spring and early summer as contagious subvariants of omicron took hold.

State and local health data show the latest transmission rates are comparable to last summer’s delta variant surge but well below the peak of the omicron surge earlier this year. Virus hospitalizations in the county have fluctuated between about 180 and 225 patients since early June. That is less than half the peak of roughly 660 patients treated in hospitals in late January.

The county jail system has recorded a total of 3,797 inmate cases since the start of the pandemic, according to Sheriff’s Office data. Several have required hospitalization. Three have died.

California jails and prisons throughout the pandemic have been hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks due to overcrowding. Local jails as well as the state prison system have at various points imposed early release initiatives, to alleviate crowded conditions and free up isolation and quarantine space in response to virus surges.

The Sacramento County Office of Inspector General in a December report on COVID-19 at the jails attributed an October outbreak to overpopulation, weak adherence by inmates to mask and social distancing protocols, weak enforcement of those protocols by jail staff and large numbers of inmates refusing the vaccine.

The report said Adult Correctional Health and Sheriff’s Office staff have been “transparent and responsive in identifying potential problem areas,” but also that the outbreak reflected “the fact that the jails are overcrowded and there is not enough space to limit the potential for COVID-19 exposure.”

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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