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Fresno County Jail Has One Confirmed Coronavirus Case - And Officials Hope That Number Stays Low

Fresno County Jail (file photo)

So far, only one inmate at the Fresno County jail has a confirmed case of the coronavirus. And as the pandemic continues, law enforcement are taking precautions to try and keep the case numbers low.

Tony Botti with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office says the inmate wasn’t symptomatic when he was booked Friday, but told a probation officer that he had tested positive a week earlier. 

“Fortunately he wasn’t exposed to any other inmates,” said Botti. “He was near some staff members through that process, so what we did is we made a call over to the hospital to try and verify his story.” 

The hospital confirmed: the inmate had COVID-19.

Botti said jail staff are checking every new inmate for symptoms before they set foot in the facility, and have cleared a whole floor to isolate potential COVID-19 patients, including the confirmed case.

The jail population has been decreasing: before the pandemic, there were around 2,800 inmates. As of Tuesday morning, there were 2,306. Botti said the low numbers are because officers are choosing to issue citations instead of arrests, and new rules have allowed some inmates with 30 days or less left in their sentence to be released.

“Now the ‘zero dollar bail rule’ that’s in effect, that I believe has been able to let anywhere from 200 to 300 people free,” said Botti.

Inmates with certain serious offenses are not eligible for being released. 

Botti says the zero dollar bail decision was made by the California Judicial Council because courts are not operating as usual due to the coronavirus.

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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