The Sheriff’s Office reported another 18 positive COVID-19 cases among Santa Barbara County Main Jail inmates on Monday, part of a month-long outbreak that was first disclosed to the public just two days earlier.

The outbreak investigation started Aug. 20, with cases involving inmates in two different sections of the facility: the South Module and the West Module, according to Raquel Zick, sheriff’s public information officer.

There are 66 active cases among inmates, with 83 total in this outbreak, and three active cases among custody staff, with five total in this outbreak, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Thirteen positive cases were reported Monday from Saturday testing of West Module inmates who were exposed to someone who tested positive, but themselves originally tested negative.

Dozens of novel coronavirus cases have been reported among people in custody at the jail over the course of the pandemic, including some discovered when people are booked into custody and jail-acquired cases.

The Sheriff’s Office stopped sending out regular reports of positive COVID-19 cases in the Main Jail “a while back,” and released information about this outbreak on Saturday because of the high number of involved inmates, Zick said.  

The state requires staff at correctional and detention facilities to verify their COVID-19 vaccination status or submit to weekly testing, and Santa Barbara County’s Board of Supervisors recently voted to adopt a vaccination or testing requirement for all employees.

Zick said 62% of Sheriff’s Department custody staff were fully vaccinated as of Monday.

All Main Jail staff are being tested twice a week, regardless of vaccination status, she said.

As of this week, 34.5% of jail inmates are fully vaccinated (212 of the 613 people currently in custody).  

“Due to the continual turnover of our population, the rate has not changed. However, WellPath has administered 493 vaccinations since the beginning of the pandemic,” Zick told Noozhawk Monday.  

The 34.5% vaccination rate is much lower than the community rate of 67.4% in Santa Barbara County. 

A mass vaccination clinic was held for people in custody at the Main Jail earlier this year, when the shots became available, and since then, everyone being booked into the facility is offered COVID-19 vaccination, Zick said.

The county contracts with Wellpath to provide medical services within the Main Jail, including COVID-19 testing.

Main Jail staff and inmates still regularly wear masks inside the facility, according to Zick, who said that other public health protocols have not significantly changed during the course of the pandemic.

People booked into custody are housed separately for the first 14 days, and tested before moving into the general population, she said.

Inmates are also tested whenever they have COVID-19-like symptoms or have been exposed to someone who tested positive, she said.

“As we identify COVID-19 positive inmates, they are moved into an area of the facility that has negative-pressure cells. In the case of an outbreak, only those with active symptoms are moved.

“The remainder are placed together in small groups (cohorts) and isolated from other inmates. We also separate those who were exposed but have not tested positive.

“Inmates with severe symptoms or who have underlying health conditions are transported to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.” 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.