No plans for early inmate releases in Orange County: Sheriff

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Following the release of more than 1,700 inmates from Los Angeles County jails in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Thursday his department has no immediate plans for early releases.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has more than 1,400 open beds and the ability to isolate as many as 100 inmates, if needed, Barnes said.

But he added that the notion of releases hasn’t been ruled out, should it become necessary for the sake of health and safety. If so, the department would focus on releasing inmates with little time left to serve, as well as those over 65 years old or with health conditions, Barnes said.

The first coronavirus diagnosis in an Orange County inmate was announced Tuesday. Others who had contact with the infected inmate were being quarantined.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Health Care Agency announced the number of COVID-19 infections in the county had risen to 256, representing an increase of 69 cases since the previous day.

One death has been reported in Orange County, that of a man older than 65.

An increase in detected cases was expected, Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said in a written statement.

“An increase in reported cases is one of the factors of increased testing,” she said.

“This serves as a reminder of the importance of staying at home and social distancing when leaving the household for essential activities, or to work at an essential business,” Quick said. “It is our responsibility to help protect the community and work together to flatten the curve in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

More than 3,600 coronavirus tests had been administered in Orange County as of Thursday, officials said.

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