"...The County's jails are doing a better job of addressing COVID-19-related concerns than the vast majority of other custody settings to prevent the risk of infection for both staff and inmates."
- Dr. Sarah L. Rudman, MD MPH, Assistant Public Health Officer, Santa Clara County Public Health Department
Public Health Visit to County Jails
In light of COVID-19, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office is steadfast in its commitment to the protection of the public and our employees. Based on directives implemented by the County of Santa Clara Public Health Officer, as well as State and Federal authorities, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office implemented measures in response to COVID-19 to protect the health and safety of the public, personnel, and those in our custody in Santa Clara County jail facilities.
These measured approaches in no way compromise our sworn commitment to keep the Community secure and those under our care safe.
Realizing the challenge facing our community and agency, we initiated an Incident Command Center (ICC) on March 16, 2020. The goal of the ICC is to coordinate staffing and supply needs to help support our agency's daily operations, with the overall goal of minimizing exposure to all Sheriff's Office personnel and the Community.
The Sheriff's Office also established a COVID-19 Investigative Unit (CIU). CIU is a team assembled of Sworn Personnel who are proactively tracking COVID-19 exposures among staff, the public, and others in order to ensure the protection of our staff. This unit has worked to perform “contact tracing” of potential exposures for each of the employees and others who have tested positive for COVID-19. As part of their investigative process they have carefully traced who may have had exposure to that individual utilizing the latest CDC Exposure Guidelines.
In the interest of health and safety, the Sheriff's Office established a patrol Virus Response Team (VRT) responsible for assisting on and investigating high exposure calls for service in the Community and in the jail facilities. This group of sworn employees are trained in proper decontamination and virus mitigation practices. Additionally, the Sheriff's Office set-up a decontamination trailer with showers to assist in the efficiency of our regular operations. The Sheriff's Office also established designated areas in our correctional facilities with accessibility to showers and CDC approved decontamination equipment and supplies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to personnel.
The Sheriff's Office has proactively worked on reducing the jail population in response to COVID-19. We have been able to reduce the population by releasing sentenced misdemeanor inmates on alternative custody programs, delaying court-ordered commitments and other scheduled sentences for 60-days, and by working with justice partners, including Pre-Trial Services and the Court to re-evaluate pre-trial inmates for release. The primary goal is to reduce the population while also limiting the intake of new inmates to reduce exposure within the facilities.
In our Custody Bureau, in the interest of health and safety, the Sheriff's Office has instituted the following:
- A cleaning schedule was issued for all housing units/areas in the jail facilities to conduct deep cleaning 2x a day.
- Established COVID-19 Exposure Team (CET).
- Staff ensure inmates are receiving adequate cleaning materials for housing areas and increased distribution of personal hygiene kits.
- Health safety video bulletins and flyers are displayed throughout all custody facilities to keep staff and inmates informed of best health practices related to COVID-19.
- Each inmate receives ten, free five-minute calls per week.
- Use of video arraignments to reduce court transports, as well as increasing the number of transportation trips to allow inmates distance from one another in the vehicles.
- Housing units at both Main Jail and Elmwood are receiving out-of-cell time in smaller groups to increase social distancing, and allow for phones to be cleaned between uses.
- Inmate movement/rehousing within the inmate modules has been significantly curtailed.
- If an inmate exhibits COVID-like symptoms, the inmate will be rehoused and isolated from the general population.
- If a staff member exhibits COVID-like symptoms, the staff member will be removed from the jail facility and placed on leave to seek medical attention and self-quarantine.
For more information and the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit the Web sites of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.