Santa Rita Jail Plunges Into Largest COVID-19 Outbreak Since February, Vaccinations Remain Low

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This report is written by the Covid In-Custody Project — an independent journalism project that partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring reporting on the pandemic in California’s county jails and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to the public eye. Refer to our website to view and download the raw data.

1. Alameda County Jail (Santa Rita Jail) – Highlights

Incarcerated Population

Cases and testing update:

  • As of Sept. 21, there are 3 active COVID-19 cases in Santa Rita Jail (SRJ), two of which are asymptomatic. One housing unit is currently quarantined. 
  • Since Friday, Sept. 17, one individual has been released from custody whilst having an active infection.

Population update:

  •  There are 2149 people in custody. The population has been on an overall downward trend for the past month, which correlates with a high number of transfers for individuals who were pending transfer to state prisons. At the beginning of 2021, over 170 individuals were pending transfer to the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). This number has dropped to 6 as of Sept. 17.
  • SRJ has 191 medically vulnerable or “orange” patients in custody. These patients are currently healthy but considered at increased risk for developing complications associated with COVID-19 according to the jail’s Outbreak and Control Plan.
  • SRJ has 6 “red” patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. These patients have COVID-19 symptoms but have not tested positive either because they refused testing or are awaiting test results.

Testing update:

  • 16% of the jail population was tested within the seven-day period prior to Sept. 15. In the past week, 10% of the jail population was tested.

Vaccination update:

  • Vaccinations for the incarcerated population are administered Tuesday through Thursday. The following stats are current as of Sept. 16, 2021.
  • 975 people either entered custody with a full vaccination or were fully vaccinated by Wellpath staff while in custody. 542 of them are still in custody, meaning roughly only 25.4% of the current population is fully vaccinated.
  • Similarly, 57 out 141 partially vaccinated individuals are still in custody, meaning only 2.7% of the current population is partially vaccinated.

Housing unit quarantine update:

  • HU 21 D is currently quarantined due to an individual presenting with symptoms. This unit was last released from quarantine on Feb. 11.
  • Residents in HU 35 C pod have been moved to HU 21 F, which recently underwent surveillance testing resulting in quarantine status being lifted.

Staff

Cases and testing update:

  • The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) reports 1 current positive staff/contractor case. There have been a total of 158 staff/contractor cases during the pandemic, 157 of which have recovered.
  • On March 1, the Alameda County Public Health Dept. issued a mandatory testing order for ACSO SRJ employees, requiring them to get tested every 14 days regardless of their vaccination status. Data on compliance with this order can be found here. On July 26, the CA Dept. of Public Health issued a mandatory testing order for unvaccinated jail staff only, thereby overriding the Alameda County Health Officer’s order.
  • According to data reported by Capt. Luckett-Fahimi, in the Sept. 4 – Sept. 11 testing period, out of 1123 staff that needed to comply, 436 were fully vaccinated and another 134 were exempted since they did not work a shift at the jail. Out of the 583 remaining staff that needed to comply, 560 or 96% submitted to a test. 

Vaccination update:

  • According to data released by ACSO on Sept. 17, 44.79% of the entire ACSO staff, and 46.89% of ACSO staff who work at SRJ are fully vaccinated.
    NOTE: The vaccination rate for SRJ staff includes not only ACSO employees who belong to the custody bureau but also those who work at other duty stations and are assigned to work at SRJ on mandatory overtime. The vaccination rate is calculated using self-reported vaccination cards submitted by employees to HR. Currently, employees can choose not to report their vaccination status.

2. San Francisco County Jails – Highlights

Incarcerated Population

Cases and testing update:

  • As of Sept. 21, there are no active COVID-19 cases in custody, out of 200 total confirmed cases. Since the beginning of August, 30 additional cases have been identified. 
  • Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 19, approximately 375 tests were administered for new books and residents.

Population update: 

  • Between Sept. 16 and Sept. 20, 119 individuals were booked into custody. Since the pandemic emerged, there have been 15,311 total bookings. Despite the high intake rate, the incarcerated population has consistently stayed within the range of 750 to 850 people since April 2020. Currently, there are 848 people in custody.

Vaccination update:

  • According to data provided by the Covid Command Center, as of June 24, 15 individuals currently in custody are partially vaccinated and 450 are fully vaccinated, meaning roughly 57% of the population is fully vaccinated.
  • 29 fully vaccinated individuals received their dose from the community, while the rest were vaccinated while in custody.
  • 286 incarcerated people out of the total fully or partially vaccinated individuals who have been in custody were released. 

Quarantine and Isolation update:

  • Since Sept. 2, the quarantine and isolation populations have decreased by 25 and 7 respectively. As of Sept. 16, there are 175 persons in quarantine, of which 27 are in medical isolation.

Releases Update:

  • Since the pandemic emerged, a total of 183 cases out of 200 confirmed cases have been either released while positive or released after recovery. 
  • According to the San Francisco Sheriff Office’s website, “the [SF] courts approved multiple early releases as stipulated by the District Attorney and Public Defender and continue to review stipulations”. This strategy has, indirectly, aided the jails in keeping their active cases under strict control, evidenced by the fact that there have been no major outbreaks since the pandemic emerged. In fact, the highest number of cases recorded on a single day was 11.

Staff

Cases and testing update:

  • The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office (SFSO) reports 5 new positive staff cases between Aug. 26 and Sept. 22.  There have been a total of 121 staff cases during the pandemic, 104 of which have recovered.
  • The number of tests administered at city health sites per week ranges from 100 to 200, with an average 133 tests per week.
  • On March 24, the San Francisco Public Health Dept. (SFDPH) issued a mandatory testing order for the SFSO employees. Further, on July 26, the CA Dept. of Public Health (CDPH) issued a mandatory testing order for unvaccinated staff only, thereby overriding the SFDPH’s order. Information on the implementation and compliance with both orders is unknown.

Vaccination update:

  • As of June 3, according to data retrieved via public records request, only 269 or 59% of SFSO sworn custody staff have been fully vaccinated. This number does not include civilian custody staff or other SFSO staff members who work at the jails on mandatory overtime or other assignments.

3. Yolo County – Highlights
Yolo County Jail
Data reporting halted as of March 2021.

4. Sacramento County – Highlights
(Sacramento Main Jail & Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center)

As of Aug. 25, there have been 1863* total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Sacramento County Jail system

  • Between Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, 13 active cases were reported in the Main Jail, while the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (RCCC) reported only two.
  • Between both facilities, the population is 3,223 people, an increase of 43 people since the week of Aug. 11. From May to early August, the population was on a downward trajectory, however, since Aug. 4, this trend has reversed. 
  • Between Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, 356 new tests were administered to new books and residents, meaning that at most 11.04 percent of the total population was newly tested. Since the population is constantly in flux with new bookings, releases and transfers, it is possible that this percentage is an overestimate.
  • During January and February, the weekly testing rate was between 15-20 percent and active cases in custody were in the hundreds. The continuous decline in testing since the month of March suggests that there may be more active cases in custody than reported.
  • Data on the number of active cases released from custody and the number of resolved cases that remain in custody has not been reported since Aug. 19, 2020. While the county’s staff COVID-19 protocol suggests this information is documented, the Sacramento County’s Office of Information has declined to provide this data.
  • As of Aug. 25, 1685 individuals were fully vaccinated and 314 were partially vaccinated while in custody– an increase of 320 and 460 since July 14 respectively. These counts include those who were released or transferred after receiving a vaccine– it is not the current number of vaccinated individuals in custody. Since the population is in constant flux with new bookings, releases and transfers, it is impossible to ascertain the degree of immunity against COVID-19 in the jails using the available data. 
  • As of Aug. 25, 434 healthcare/Sheriff’s Office staff have been fully vaccinated and 22 are partially vaccinated. The county’s Dept. of Health Services previously stated their staff population count totals 409, while the Sheriff’s Office reports that the RCCC and Main Jail have a staff count of 429 and 343 respectively. This suggests that about 36.7 percent of the staff population is fully vaccinated, while 1.8 percent is partially vaccinated.
  • Between Aug. 22 and Aug. 28, 29 youth or 25.8 percent of the population was tested at the Youth Detention Facility (YDF). Since the week of Aug. 14, there has been a 26.6 percent decrease in testing. There is one active case in the facility.

*Sacramento Sheriff’s Office reports that 76 duplicate positive results have been identified and removed from the total number of confirmed cases

5. Santa Clara County – Highlights
As of Sept. 10, there are 6 active COVID-19 cases in the Santa Clara County jail system.

  • There are currently 2,369 total incarcerated people in custody– 47 less than the last written report on September 8 and 10 less than September 9.
  • 36,507 tests have been completed thus far, of which 665 came back positive and 36,043 came back negative. 182 tests were completed between September 8 and September 10, and all but 3 came back negative.
  • There have been 680 cumulative positive cases, of which 231 cases were confirmed during booking and 449 were confirmed in custody.
    • The 14-day average for test positivity rate is now at 1.58%
    • A large spike in cases occurred towards the end of August. The total confirmed cases jumped from 639 to 645 between Aug. 20 and Aug. 23 — 7 were confirmed during the booking process, meaning the infections were community acquired
  • Vaccinations for the incarcerated population began on Jan. 26, 2021. The jail system has prioritized high-risk individuals and those 65+. Now, everyone in custody at Elmwood Correctional Complex and Main jail as well those who are 16+ at juvenile halls are eligible for vaccines.
  • As of April 6, 1,008 individuals in both jails and the juvenile detention facilities have been fully or partially vaccinated. In the Main Jail and Elmwood, 795 have been fully vaccinated and 164 have received their first dose. These counts include those who were released or transferred after receiving a vaccine– it is not the current number of fully or partially vaccinated individuals in custody. Since the population is in constant flux with new bookings, releases and transfers, it is impossible to ascertain the degree of immunity against COVID-19 in the jails using the available data.
  • As of April 6, 572 out of 1132 custody staff employees at the Sheriff’s Office have been fully vaccinated. This vaccination rate of 55 percent is not significantly higher than that reported two months prior. As of Feb. 9, 475 out of 1025 custody staff employees, or 46 percent, were fully vaccinated. 
  • It is important to note that the vaccine data for Sheriff’s Office employees only includes those who were vaccinated at the Public Safety Clinic, a vaccination site coordinated by the Santa Clara Public Health Dept. The data does not include employees who may have been vaccinated through their own providers.

Sources:
Alameda County:
View and download raw data here: www.covidincustody.org/data -> View and download data.
Read reports on data, policies and protocols: www.covidincustody.org/reporting -> County Jails -> Alameda County
San Francisco County:
View and download raw data here: www.covidincustody.org/data -> View and download data
Read reports on data, policies and protocols: www.covidincustody.org/reporting -> County Jails -> San Francisco County
Yolo County:
Lieutenant Matt Davis, Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and Philip Pogledich, Yolo County Counsel
Santa Clara County: Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office:
https://www.sccgov.org/sites/sheriff/COVID19/Pages/Population-COVID-19-Tracking.aspx
Sacramento County: Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office:
https://www.sacsheriff.com/Pages/Organization/Corrections/COVID19.aspx
Board of State & Community Corrections (BSCC): On July 15, BSCC Chair, Linda Penner,  requested Sheriffs and Chief Probation Officers to release weekly COVID-19 data for jails and Youth Detention Facilities. This database remains incomplete as many facilities have refused to comply. Further, it does not contain historical data prior to July 20.
http://www.bscc.ca.gov/covid-19-data-dashboard-landing-page/

By Aparna Komarla, Tiffany Devlin, Aziza Nussipov, Anna Zheng, Alexander Ramirez

Contact: Aparna Komarla (apkomarla@ucdavis.edu)

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About The Author

Aparna Komarla leads the Covid In-Custody project, which partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring reporting on the pandemic's impact on county jails and CDCR to the public eye. See www.covidincustody.org for more information.

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One thought on “Santa Rita Jail Plunges Into Largest COVID-19 Outbreak Since February, Vaccinations Remain Low”

  1. Keith Olsen

    Ha, remember the video of the convicts passing around and sipping on the same cup of water where they were trying to catch COVID?  Get of of jail free card…

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