On Friday, March 27, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department announced that a contract employee at the County Jail has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee, who received confirmation yesterday that she had tested positive for the virus after displaying symptoms last weekend, was a contract worker with the health-care provider Wellpath and is a resident of Ventura County, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office.
According to the release, the employee began isolating at home after displaying symptoms of the virus, but had been in contact with several inmates and staff members the day before she began displaying symptoms. The release states that the employee was wearing protective gear and that no staff members or inmates have been placed in isolation as a result of the interaction.
The new case marks the second worker at the County Jail to test positive for the virus, as another contract worker who staffed the jail’s main control room tested positive several weeks ago, resulting in an order for several members of staff to self-quarantine at home. That worker has recovered.
Watchdog groups and the public officials such as the Public Defender have noted that an outbreak of the virus in the jail would be a nightmare, as the virus could spread easily through the jail’s packed quarters. Many have urged the Sheriff’s Office to decrease the number of inmates in the jail by the maximum degree compatible with public safety, citing other facilities such as those Los Angeles County, who have taken dramatic steps to bring down overcrowding in an attempt to keep inmates, staff, and members of the community safe from a potential outbreak.
The press release from the sheriff says that those entering the jail are having their temperatures taken and that they have stepped up sanitation practices and educational efforts.