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3 Santa Barbara County Jail inmates, 20 sheriff's employees falsely test positive for coronavirus
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3 Santa Barbara County Jail inmates, 20 sheriff's employees falsely test positive for coronavirus

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Three inmates at the Santa Barbara County Jail who previously tested positive for COVID-19 were later found to be negative after they were retested along with 20 Sheriff's Office employees whose results also turned out to be negative, according to a sheriff's spokeswoman. 

Quest Diagnostics processed the initial test samples as part of a staff sweep within the last two weeks that included 20 employees and three inmates.

The private lab reported that all 20 employees and three inmates had tested positive for the coronavirus, which raised questions among sheriff's officials, according to Zick. 

The inmates had been housed in separate areas of the jail that hadn't been associated with other infections, Zick said, and the Sheriff's Office had never had such a large infection among staff at one time. Employees were not showing symptoms, either, Zick said, although it's unknown if the inmates also were asymptomatic. 

Upon direction from the Sheriff's Office, Quest Diagnostics conducted new tests or retested samples among the 20 staff members and three inmates. All the results came back negative, Zick said. 

Staff test results were never included in the Sheriff's Office tally due to their questionable nature, Zick said. Inmate test results, however, were reported and included in Santa Barbara County's number of positive cases.

Zick said that reporting the positive cases among inmates was done in the name of transparency. 

"Our aim is towards transparency, especially with inmate population," Zick explained. "We need to be transparent that there was an error." 

The errors change the total number of inmates housed at the jail who have been infected with the coronavirus to nine. 

Of those nine, three contracted the coronavirus inside the jail while six were positive before they were brought to the facility, according to Zick, adding that four of those nine cases are active, while two have recovered and three were released from custody.

Additionally, an inmate who was arrested on Saturday was positive for the coronavirus, which was confirmed through testing at a local hospital prior to booking. The inmate was immediately housed in a negative pressure area and is being medically monitored. 

The Sheriff's Office now will differentiate between coronavirus cases that originated outside the jail and those that came from inside the facility. Inmates who test positive within the 14-day intake quarantine are considered to have been positive at intake, according to Zick. 

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