SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Authorities Thursday will continue releasing inmates without bail in compliance with a state order to reduce prison populations in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department was expected release approximately 400 inmates without bail Wednesday and Thursday, Sheriff Bill Gore said Wednesday.
Nearly 1,200 inmates incarcerated for nonviolent misdemeanors or with fewer than 60 days remaining on their sentences have been released early from county facilities, reducing the county inmate population from 5,600 to roughly 4,400.
The new "Zero Bail" emergency order, adopted by the Judicial Council of California last week, stipulates that by 5 p.m. Wednesday, all inmates not charged with a serious or violent offense had to be released or be in the process of being released with no bail. Gore said Wednesday that he had 500 inmates fitting that description.
One caveat to the order is that if the prosecuting attorney seeks to increase an inmate's bail amount, they will remain incarcerated. Gore said this applied to around 100 inmates.
The sheriff expressed concerns with the sweeping scale of the order, claiming his facilities have done a "responsible job" reducing jail populations and preventing the spread of the virus. Some of his office's measures include "enhanced screenings" at county facilities and placing a temporary ban on visitors and contractors at the same facilities.
Gore said only three cases have been reported in county inmates, two of which have been released. The third inmate to contract the virus remains in custody.
San Diego County officials reported 82 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday along with seven additional deaths, raising the county's totals to 2,012 cases and 60 deaths.
The county residents who died were three women -- one aged 100 and two in their late 80s -- and four men -- one in his mid 60s, one mid 70s, one late 80s and one mid 90s. All had underlying health issues, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer.
Hospitalizations increased to 488 since the pandemic first hit San Diego County, 173 of which have been sent to the intensive care unit. Those numbers represent increases of 38 and nine, respectively, from Tuesday.
County health officials estimate 681 positive-testing individuals have recovered since their initial tests, an increase of 108 from Tuesday. The county and the region's 23 hospitals have completed 27,884 tests, around 93% of which are returning negative.
Of positive-testing individuals, 24.3% have been hospitalized and 8.6% have been sent to the ICU. The county's death rate for those testing positive for the illness is 3%. All three percentages have been increasing steadily over the last week.
Of the deaths in which race/ethnicity was tracked, 52.2% were white, 37% Latino, 8.7% Asian and 2.2% multiple races. There are still 14 deaths as of yet unidentified by race or ethnicity.
Encinitas announced it is closing the Coastal Rail Trail and pedestrian portion of South Highway 101 from Swami's Beach to Seaside Parking Lot, effective Thursday.
Parking along San Elijo Avenue from Santa Fe Drive to Chesterfield Drive will also be closed in order to encourage social distancing amid the pandemic, city officials said.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher on Wednesday reported another confirmed case in a homeless individual. Wooten confirmed two new community outbreaks Wednesday, raising the county outbreak total to 33, tied to 233 cases and 23 deaths.
Property developer Integral Communities committed to the donation of 500 face masks to Palomar Hospital on Wednesday. The hospital has already received one batch and another will be delivered Friday.