Orange County Jail Reports Dramatic Drop in Inmate Infections

February 5, 2021 Updated: February 5, 2021

The amount of Orange County inmates infected with the COVID-19 virus is less than one percent of what it was a month ago, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) said Feb. 5.

The OCSD is crediting the reduction with “robust mitigation efforts” to bring down the rate of infection at the Santa Ana facility.

On Jan. 5, the number of general inmates who tested COVID-19 positive reached 1,109. As of Feb. 5, nine inmates were found to be carrying the virus.

“Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be challenging for everyone, and the Orange County Jail system has not been immune from this challenge,” Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement. “Although in December we saw an outbreak in our facilities, we remained steadfast with our strict health and safety protocols, which have proven to be successful throughout the year. This has been accomplished without releasing serious and violent offenders who may pose a danger to Orange County residents.”

His comments came as the OCSD continued to appeal a court order that initially sought to reduce the prison population by more than half.

The case began last year, when Sheriff Don Barnes received a Dec. 11 court order requiring county jails to reduce populations by 50 percent. It was a move Barnes has warned could result in large consequences for the community.

Instead, the OCSD sought to engage in mitigation efforts such as regular temperature checks of staff and inmates, mandatory masks for staff and inmates, regular testing, diligent hygiene and more. Other measures have included the release of low level sentenced offenders, pausing public visiting and halting non-essential services.

Two Orange County inmates have died of COVID-related complications since the pandemic began.

Eddie Lee Anderson, 68, died Dec. 18, about a week after testing positive for COVID-19. The Theo Lacy Facility inmate was transferred to a hospital on Dec. 13 for treatment.

On Jan. 21, Ah Le Fang died in hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 weeks earlier.

The 37-year-old was arrested and booked August 2017 by the Fullerton Police Department after he was suspected of stabbing his mother and her boyfriend with a knife inside the apartment where they lived together with his older sister.

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