Inmate to remain in isolation at O.C. jail after testing positive for COVID-19

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The Orange County Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana is seen on Jan. 23, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)

The Orange County Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana is seen on Jan. 23, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)

An Orange County inmate has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials said Tuesday, marking the first known case in the local jail system.

The detainee, a man in his 40s, has “moderate symptoms” and will remain is isolation at Santa Ana’s Central Men’s Jail rather than being hospitalized, O.C. sheriff’s officials said in a news release.

Another three inmates isolated after exhibiting flu-like symptoms are awaiting test results. A total of 12 sick inmates have been isolated so far, but the remaining eight tested negative, deputies said.

The prisoner who tested positive was in the Central Men’s Jail barracks housing before he became symptomatic. He was originally booked in June 2018 on suspicion of child endangerment, torture, false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon, officials said.

Because movements within the jail are tracked with an electronic card system, the department believes it will be able to identify everyone who came in contact with the patient to let them know they may have been exposed. Those inmates and staffers will be monitored for symptoms and their movement within the facility will be restricted for up to 2 weeks.

O.C. jail population has “steadily declined” over the past 10 days, the Sheriff’s Department said, without providing specifics.

On Sunday, a male prisoner in Lancaster was announced as the first COVID-19 case in the state prison system. That patient was in stable condition and also being treated within the facility, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Other cases have been confirmed among state prison workers, including three at the California Institution for Men in Chino, two at California State Prison, Sacramento, and one at Folsom State Prison.

In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced an executive order suspending the transfer of inmates into and out of the state system for at least 30 days. Any prisoners who do enter the system will be quarantined and monitored for two weeks.

The order also directed the Board of Parole to conduct all hearings via video conference, which will likely delay proceedings while the technology is set up.

Prisons and jails say they are screening everyone who enters — though visitors have been banned. Inmates were instead given two days of free phone calls, the first of which took place March 19. The second is set for this Thursday, March 26.

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