Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said the county jail’s COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow. Currently, nine corrections staff and 55 inmates have tested positive for the virus.
As the numbers grow, Sheriff Kendall said the collaboration between state and county public health services has been essential to mitigate the spread and employ the proper practices to maintain staff and inmates’ safety.
Twenty-two of the individuals that tested positive for COVID-19 will be listed as recovered in the next 48 hours, Sheriff Kendall said. Four staff members will be off of quarantine, and 18 inmates will be as well.
Sheriff Kendall said the worst symptoms experienced by staff and inmates alike have been mild flu symptoms but he said he was concerned as the numbers increase, “a death could come out of there.”
The rise of COVID-19 amongst corrections staff has forced Sheriff Kendall to reassign MCSO staff. He said that two deputies assigned to field training were assigned to work the jail after nine corrections staff were quarantined.
Sheriff Kendall also described spatial and logistical adaptation the jail has deployed in the wake of the outbreak. He said COVID-19 positive inmates had been separated from the negative inmates. Lunch breaks and recreational time has been staggered to keep the populations separate, Sheriff Kendall explained.
He added that everyone is now wearing N95 masks, and the entirety of the population–both staff and inmates–would be engaging twice per week in outbreak testing. Sheriff Kendall said an antigen rapid testing unit availed to the jail would be utilized for the foreseeable future on top of the outbreak testing.
Sheriff Kendall expressed gratitude to Bekkie Emery and the Mendocino County Public Health, and the California Department of Public Health’s guidance in navigating the outbreak. He said other COVID-19 outbreaks in the state’s prisons and jails had provided a set of best practices that can be employed to limit the spread of COVID-19 and maximize staff and inmates’ safety.