Orange County COVID-19 Cases Rise 37%; Two Jail Inmates Diagnosed

March 27, 2020 Updated: March 27, 2020

SANTA ANA (CNS)—Orange County’s confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped to 256 on March 26, from 187 a day earlier. But no additional deaths were reported by local health officials.

That’s a jump of 69 confirmed cases, or about 37 percent in one day.

The county’s only fatality was reported on Tuesday and involved a 75- year-old man who was hospitalized March 17 and died two days later.

Of the 256 cases reported, 71 cases involved residents who contracted the virus through traveling; 25 by person-to-person spread; and 71 were “community acquired,” according to Orange County Public Health officials. Eighty-nine are under investigation as to how the patients were infected.

As of March 26, 3,605 people had been tested, leaving county officials with enough tests for 1,239 people.

On March 27, Orange County officials plan to begin providing more details on COVID-19 cases, including the numbers from each of the county’s cities.

Santiago Canyon College in Orange was closed March 27 because a part- time employee has tested positive for COVID-19, and another local community college district reported that one of its students returned from a study-abroad program with the virus. Rancho Santiago Community College District officials said they were notified March 25 that the Santiago Canyon College employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials said that “in an abundance of caution,” the campus was closed to all employees, and will remain closed on Friday. Only security guards will be on campus patrolling the perimeter. The college district’s online learning will not be interrupted.

North Orange County Community College District officials said they learned on March 25 a student who recently returned from a program in London reported testing positive for COVID-19. The student has been in self- quarantine since returning home and has not been on either of the district’s campuses: Fullerton College and Cypress College.

COVID-19 at Santa Ana Jail

At the Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana, two inmates were diagnosed with COVID-19 Thursday, bringing the total number of inmates infected to three, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. All three inmates were housed in the same area in the jail, the department said.

“The two newly diagnosed individuals are isolated and receiving medical treatment,” the department tweeted. “Additionally, all other inmates in the module are being moved to isolated housing units and will be monitored for symptoms.”

Deputies were already closely monitoring all of the inmates, guards and other personnel who came into contact with a prisoner who tested positive on March 24, the first inmate stricken with the disease in the county.

The man, who is in his 40s, was placed in isolation when he began exhibiting “moderate symptoms,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said. The inmate has not required hospitalization.

Sheriff’s officials have an electronic-card system that can trace the inmate’s movements so they can see who he has been in contact with, said department spokeswoman Carrie Braun, adding six inmates are in isolation awaiting test results.

The inmate who tested positive was booked on June 17, 2018, on suspicion of child endangerment, torture, false imprisonment, and assault with a deadly weapon, Braun said. He was last in court on his case March 9.

Test results of eight other inmates recently came back negative, Braun said.

Barnes announced on March 13 that he would prohibit visitation at the jails. The sheriff said arrests were down 10 percent, about 500 below what the rate was two weeks ago.

On March 25, Tom Dominguez, the president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, wrote a letter to Barnes expressing concerns about protecting the members of his union.

Dominguez asked for about 1,500 masks in the department’s inventory to be given to deputies. He also asked for any other personal protection equipment available.

The union also wants to shut down any dormitory or barracks-style jail housing.

“These types of inmate housing locations consist of living conditions and movement requirements that force inmates to be in very close proximity to one another,” Dominguez wrote, adding that his union supports releasing non- violent offender inmates who have less than 30 days to serve on their sentence.