Coronavirus cases climb at Milpitas jail; first case discovered before trip to dentist

A total of 24 inmates at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas have now tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office -- with the first case detected when an inmate was on his way to get dental care. 

As of Wednesday, at least 15 additional male inmates in the M8B unit had tested positive for the virus, along with nine who had tested positive earlier, according to daily data provided on the virus. 

All those who tested positive are in quarantine and their movements are restricted, the sheriff's office stated. 

The first case was detected when a patient was scheduled to go to the jail dentist and was tested for COVID-19 before the appointment. When he came back positive, the sheriff said they tested his entire dorm. 

The news comes a day after a female inmate at Elmwood tested positive and was taken to the hospital. In all, 28 staff members have tested positive for coronavirus. 

In early July, an outbreak in the high-security 5B unit of the Main Jail in San Jose yielded 17 positive cases in a 10-day span, prompting an ongoing murder trial to be postponed for two weeks, the Mercury News reported.

According to the sheriff’s office, no new cases have surfaced in 5B since that outbreak. As of Wednesday, the Santa Clara County jail system has recorded 78 positive COVID-19 cases, and at least 17 are currently in custody.

Coronavirus spreading in the jails has worried many activists who want more inmates released from what they describe as tinderboxes of the disease. Authorities have indeed reduced inmate populations because of this fear, but they say releasing everyone could pose a danger to society.

No Bay Area jail is free from the virus.

Santa Rita Jail had a virus outbreak on July 16, which peaked at a total of 104 positive cases. But as of Wednesday, the number of positive cases had dropped to 24, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.  

As of last week, a total of 12 inmates in Contra Costa have tested positive for COVID-19, none of whom are currently in custody, according to a presentation Sheriff David Livingston gave to supervisors. All have been released with contact tracing implemented, he said.  Five staff members have tested positive and were quarantined. Of those, three are back to work and two are in quarantine.

Seven Contra Costa County Sheriff's employees have tested positive so far. 

In San Mateo County, eight inmates have tested positive for COVID-19; four of the eight are still positive and being treated by correctional health inside the facility in the medical housing unit. Since March, three employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since March.

In San Francisco, as of this week, three inmates remain in isolation in San Francisco jails, according to spokeswoman Nancy Crowley. Another three, who have recovered, are in custody and 22 have been released. She said that if an inmate was positive at release, the sheriff's department along with Jail Health Services helped find COVID-19 alternative housing.

On Thursday, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department said a second sworn staff member assigned to the Hall of Justice tested positive for COVID-19. It is not known where the employee may have contracted the virus.

"We are testing both staff and justice-involved people in our 
custody to identify and isolate individuals who are infected," SF Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said in a statement.

Given the spread of the virus and the prevalence of asymptomatic 
positive cases, there are bound to be positive results. We follow up immediately with contact tracing, alerting people who may have been exposed and could potentially expose others. This is how we prevent further spread," he said.

This is the 10th San Francisco sheriff’s employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. Five staff tested positive in March and five more have tested positive in July. Two of the five who tested positive in July were away from work for an extended period when they tested positive.

An asymptomatic sheriff’s employee assigned to the Laguna Honda campus also tested positive earlier this week.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez