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A member of the nursing staff at L.A. County jails who died last week had COVID-19

Four L.A. County jail inmates had tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday morning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A member of the nursing staff at the Los Angeles County jails who died last week tested positive for COVID-19, officials said.

The employee, who was not identified, had been off work for a while, said Jackie Clark, the county’s correctional health director. It’s unclear how or when the employee fell ill, or where the person worked. Clark said the jail health staff was notified late last week of the test results.

As of Wednesday morning, four inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the Sheriff’s Department said. Of those, one had fully recovered. Fourteen inmates, including the three others who tested positive, were in isolation because they had a fever or symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.

At least one of the inmates who tested positive was housed at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, but the Sheriff’s Department has not provided information about where the other three were housed.

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The Twin Towers inmate had been held in a one-person cell in a “high observation housing” area reserved for those who have a mental illness. He was probably exposed in the jail, where he had been housed since about December. About 16 others in that housing area were quarantined, with staff monitoring them regularly with temperature checks, Clark said last week.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a news conference Wednesday that 40 staff members in the jails had tested positive. She did not specify which jails, and a breakdown of that number was not available.

The Sheriff’s Department said 372 inmates were being quarantined because they had close contact with someone under observation.

The early release of thousands of inmates to combat the spread of the virus has significantly reduced the jail population, down to 13,586 as of Tuesday. The jails typically house about 17,000 people.

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The L.A. County Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, has ordered public health officials to examine conditions in the lockups to identify “all necessary and appropriate measures” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among inmates and staff.

In addition, 25 Sheriff’s Department employees have tested positive for the virus. More than 400 are in quarantine.

Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.


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