Sonoma County logo Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase today issued a health order requiring jail inmates to be tested for COVID-19 upon entry. The measure is designed to curb the spread of the virus and prevent outbreaks at county detention facilities.

The inmate testing order, which takes effect Oct. 1, requires all inmates in detention facilities in Sonoma County, including juvenile hall, to test for COVID-19, regardless of the individual’s vaccination status, upon entry into the facility. If an inmate tests positive, the inmate must be isolated according to the isolation protocol of the detention facility.

In Sonoma County, there have been cases arising out of detention facilities, linked to both correctional staff and inmates. The virus is introduced into the facility by both correctional staff and inmates where it can be transmitted to both staff and inmates.

“Detention facilities are particularly high-risk congregate settings because of close quarters. Inmates are exposed to many different staff and volunteers while in jail and may be required to move among different living modules, thereby increasing the possibility of COVID-19 transmission,” Dr. Mase said.  “The inmate population is at a substantial risk of severe illness, even if fully vaccinated, because they may have certain health conditions that make them vulnerable to severe consequences of COVID-19. Therefore, this order for testing applies to all inmates, regardless of their vaccination status.”

The health order was adopted in collaboration with Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick.

“We know that COVID can spread quickly in congregate living facilities, including jails,” Sheriff Essick said. “Detention staff has been conducting voluntarily COVID testing for inmates when they arrive at our jail. This health order is an effective tool to ensure all inmates are tested.”