The central jail in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Four employees of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and an inmate in a local jail have tested positive for COVID-19, the agency announced Friday.

The staffers — the department would not specify whether they are deputies, other types of workers or both — were “doing fine” under the supervision of the sheriff’s Medical Liaison Unit, according to the agency.

“This is all the information we will release about these employees out of respect for their privacy and in keeping with privacy laws,” the agency asserted in a prepared statement.

The infected inmate, meanwhile, was moved into an isolation cell upon being diagnosed late Thursday afternoon, sheriff’s officials reported.

The regional law enforcement agency withheld the condition of the man, who was taken into custody Monday on suspicion of domestic violence, and declined to specify which jail he was being housed in.

“All the information we are going to provide is in our statement,” said sheriff’s Lt. Ricardo Lopez, media-relations director for the department.

At the time of his arrest, the coronavirus-infected suspect — whose age and community of residence also were withheld — was showing flu-like symptoms and thus was provided a mask to wear during the booking process, according to the department.

“Since it was recognized up front the inmate might be ill and precautions were taken, the risk to sheriff’s staff and other inmates was minimized,” the sheriff’s memo asserts.

Nonetheless, other prisoners who may have come into contact with the ill inmate have been identified and isolated as a precaution, and employees who may have been exposed were directed to self-quarantine at home, according to the department.

The sheriff’s Detention Services Bureau has implemented “several mitigating measures to address COVID-19 concerns,” according to the statement.

“Considering those in custody may initially present as being healthy or they could potentially be exposed, we have enacted processes to quickly and safely isolate those potentially ill persons and reduce the likelihood of further spread. Temperature checks are conducted while the persons are still in the patrol vehicles prior to booking. Any persons with symptoms are issued a barrier mask, evaluated by medical staff and isolated if needed. In this instance, the protocols put in place worked and we were able to minimize the exposure to other inmates and staff right at intake.”

As of Friday, the Sheriff’s Department had 36 inmates in isolation for coronavirus-related precautions and a total of 228 beds reserved for that purpose, according to the agency’s statement.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.