Northern Branch Jail's housing area | Credit: Courtesy

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced a COVID-19 outbreak at the newly populated Northern Branch Jail in Santa Maria, where six individuals housed at the new facility tested positive over three days. About 240 inmates were transferred to the facility on January 22 from Santa Barbara’s Main Jail, where a separate COVID outbreak has reached nearly 250 individuals since early December.

Two individuals tested positive on Sunday, January 23, and additional testing found three more on Monday, and another on Tuesday, according to a statement from SBSO Public Information Officer Raquel Zick. All six who tested positive are asymptomatic. 

Zick said all those transferred to the new Northern Branch — including all transport and receiving staff — tested negative before being moved, and the transfer was conducted “after consultation with the Public Health Department and in accordance with a Public Health Order.”

Every new transfer was quarantined and tested daily, Zick said, and custody and Wellpath staff found the six positive results through this daily testing.

“Custody staff are working with our Wellpath healthcare partners to monitor and care for the six inmates who tested positive,” Zick wrote in the statement. “They have been rehoused and isolated in a separate housing area.”

Santa Barbara Courts, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office are also working to “adjust court appearances,” Zick said, to help limit the movement of defendants and prevent further spread.

More info will be released as it is made available.

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