After a dramatic spike in cases two weeks ago, the number of COVID-positive people in the Santa Clara County Jail system has dropped dramatically.
This because many inmates have been released before serving out their full sentence, in order to mitigate the crisis.
The county is leasing a hotel in a busy Mountain View hotel to house people who have coronavirus and are in need to quarantine, but have nowhere else to do it.
The residents can also be people who’ve been exposed to the virus. But now, NBC Bay Area found out that some inmates have also stayed there.
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“These were people who were very close, within one, two, or three months from serving out their term,” said Dr. Jeff Smith, Santa Clara County executive.
At one point recently, the jail system had more than 150 inmates infected with COVID, and no way to isolate all of them.
So the county started releasing many of them early. Up to 140 inmates -- mostly low level offenders serving time for DUI, or minor assault, or probation violation.
Some of them also needed to quarantine but had no where to do it. So they were sent to that hotel.
Surrounding businesses were floored when we told them Thursday.
“They we gotta let all the neighborhood businesses know to be aware. Otherwise we have customers walking in and out,” said business owner Ricky Chang.
And in two days of watching the hotel, NBC Bay Area did see people walking or driving in and out, even though most are supposed to be quarantined.
“No, No. I don’t want to get sick,” said restaurant owner Angela Landaverde. “I am vaccinated because I don’t want to get sick.”
The county has staff and probation officers watching, but admit they simply can’t force residents to stay in their rooms.
“It’s not a jail,” said Smith. “Just like every member of the public we advise them they’re supposed to quarantine, wear a mask, stay, separate, make sure they protect themselves. But we can’t force them to change their behavior.”
Neighbors said they should have been warned in the first place.
There is an upside . The county said in part, because of the early release program - today there are only 20 inmates in their jail system who are infected with COVID-19.