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Jail COVID outbreak tracing, county employee testing part of updated pandemic response

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's department says staff members may have been responsible for the current COVID outbreak with inmates.

Speaking to the Board of Supervisors, Undersheriff Sol Linver said there are currently 60 cases.

"We have implemented testing on every shift," he said. 23 have recovered since the initial outbreak of the three that have been discovered.

"Of the current positives, 24 are vaccinated," said Linver.

When an inmate gets booked, Linver said "they are immediately tested." They are held in a special inmate reception area for ten days, then, if they do not have COVID, they go to the general population.

63 percent of the custody deputies are currently vaccinated, and all are tested twice a week.

He said with the current outbreak issues, "We are still doing tracing. There is a feasibility that it was an employee that brought it in. We did test all of the employees that had contact with that module, we went back eight days and we did have three employees that tested positive."

Supervisor Bob Nelson asked about the vaccination status of those three employees. Linver said, "One of them had been vaccinated."

Linver said, "We are working with the CEO's office to give some kind of incentive to the inmates to see if we can get more of the inmates to volunteer to get vaccinated."

Outreach areas have been increased in the north county when the vaccination rate has been lower than in the south county.

Over the past weekend in the Santa Maria Valley during the Farm Day annual event. 13 locations were open for tours. Complimentary masks and sanitizers were offered at all locations.

At Reiter Berry Farms, at a Covid vaccine station, Nelson said, "They successfully administered 55 Covid vaccinations."

A county report on the vaccination level for its employees shows, 72 percent are currently vaccinated.

About 1200 employees have not had the vaccine.

The county is currently working on protocols for testing employees as part of a new policy to have either vaccination proof or a negative test. There will be medical and religious exemptions allowed.

Additional medical personnel will be needed for the testing process to have proper verification based on the county's rules.

The county is also getting set for flu season, with a recommendation for flu shots this year since many more people are in contact with each other, compared to last year. Medical officials say in 2020 with social distancing, masking and less mobility, fewer people were close enough to spread the flu.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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