COVID-19 outbreak reported at Pitchess; 88 inmates confirmed as positive, 2K under quarantine

This Signal file photo shows Pitchess Detention Center.
This Signal file photo shows Pitchess Detention Center.

By Caleb Lunetta & Tammy Murga

Signal Staff Writers

Between two facilities located on the Pitchess Detention Center campus, there are close to 100 inmates who have been diagnosed as positive for COVID-19, and close to 2,000 under quarantine.

Located on the Pitchess campus are four jails: North Facility, East Facility, South Facility and North County Correctional Facility, or NCCF, which is the maximum-security facility for the center. NCCF also houses the facility for inmates who require a clinical level of medical treatment. Pitchess Detention Center in total houses roughly 8,000 inmates under normal circumstances.

County data showed 76 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NCCF and 12 more in other areas of Pitchess, according to an email from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which cited its Acute Communicable Disease Control program. These figures accounted for 88 of 92 cases associated with the outbreak at the Castaic jail, which was listed under Val Verde in the county’s daily COVID-19 case reports, according to officials.

Public Health officials did not clarify whether these were the latest figures as of Wednesday, as the latest tally attributed to Val Verde reached at least 105, according to Wednesday’s count.

PDC-North Facility has 247 inmates under quarantine; PDC-South Facility has 30 inmates under quarantine; and NCCF has 1,701 inmates under quarantine, sheriff’s officials said Wednesday.

“(An outbreak) is basically a cluster of cases that have a relationship to each other, and in this case it’s a place, and that place is a correctional facility,” said Dr. Tom Chiang, an infectious disease specialist on staff at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. “It’s a cluster of cases in a correctional facility, in a closed space, and they’re spreading it to one another.”

“That would be the definition of an outbreak,” Chiang added.

Officials with the Sheriff’s Information Bureau declined to comment on where they believed the virus began within the jail or how many inmates were presently jailed within each facility, but stated their medical staff was conducting assessments throughout the jails to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“Additional Patients Under Investigation (PUI) were identified at the North County Correctional Facility, and the South Facility,” Sheriff’s Information Bureau officials said via a prepared statement on Wednesday. “Out of an abundance of caution, those inmates were quarantined secondary to possible contact of 10 minutes or more with a person currently under investigation.”

An outbreak in Castaic listed under Val Verde

Public Health has attributed the outbreak at the correctional facilities under Val Verde, a community of an estimated 2,500 residents, located about 5 to 7 miles west of Pitchess, which is in Castaic.

Department officials have not responded to requests for comment in clarifying the labeling of the outbreak at correctional facilities in Castaic as being in Val Verde.

On Wednesday, for its daily updates of coronavirus tallies, Public Health listed Val Verde to have at least 105 confirmed cases, a figure that has incrementally increased daily but has seen a spike in most recent days. Its first spike was reported on April 27, when confirmed cases increased from seven to 34 in just 24 hours, followed by its highest increase on May 4, when it jumped from 63 to 92 diagnoses.

Public Health officials said Wednesday the increases in confirmed diagnoses could impact the Val Verde community depending on how many people in the area work in the facilities.

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