The Riverside County Sheriff's Department has been fined by a California government health agency for coronavirus violations in a county jail.
The department now faces a nearly $18,000 fine from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) for multiple violations at the Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta. Five violations were discovered there, including two serious violations.
"Employer was cited for not annually reviewing their infection control procedures for ATDs, maintaining training records of employees on occupational exposure to ATDs, implementing an effective written infection control plan, and for not providing annual ATD training to staff," reads the citation list on Cal/OSHA's website.
ATDs refers to Aerosol Transmissible Diseases, which the state defines as diseases that can be transmitted by "infectious particles or droplets through inhalation or direct contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes or respiratory tract."
The department was fined a total of $17,895 for the violations. The citation was issued on Nov. 10, 2020 however, the inspection dates were between April 2, 2020 to Nov. 10, 2020.
According to the Sheriff's Department, County Risk Management is currently in the appeal process with the fines and violations.
Earlier on in the pandemic, the department reported an outbreak of cases at the Byrd Detention Center. On April 2, 2020, Sheriff Chad Bianco announced that there were 22 employees assigned to the jail that had tested positive.
On April 2, the department also announced that Deputy Terrell Young had died after contracting the coronavirus. Young was most recently assigned to the Byrd Detention Center.
According to the department, Young became infected after escorting a COVID-19 positive inmate from the Byrd Detention Center to the Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley. Young returned the inmate to his cell at the detention center that same day.
A few weeks later, a judge ruled against the county in a lawsuit alleging that the department was not doing enough to protect inmates from coronavirus. The department was ordered to discuss a coronavirus prevention plan with the Prison Law Office, the inmate advocacy group that brought about the lawsuit.
According to the Prison Law Office, last week there were just 10 positive coronavirus cases in all five detention facilities in the county, an improvement from a few months ago.
But still, managing attorney Sara Norman is fearful of a disastrous next wave of infections.
"The virus is loose in the community and it's spreading fast," Norman said. "I am just really scared that they'll get some super-spreaders and it will flare out of control."