Keeping COVID-19 out of the Jails

How does this impact the Sheriff’s Office? (continued from home page)

The Sheriff’s Office coordinates daily with multiple public safety and public health agencies. We work side by side with the Department of Public Health, which operates our Jail Health Services. We collaborate with the Department of Emergency Management to distribute accurate and timely public safety and health information. 

We’ve also released our COVID-19 Response and Action Plan, which covers operations and actions the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Public Health’s Jail Health Services will take to minimize the risk of exposure if there is a coronavirus outbreak in the jails and/or our community. 

Our plan builds on years of emergency health planning and outlines responses that address every level of the outbreak.  

What happens if Jail Health Services identifies someone with COVID-19?

Jail Health Services screens every person for infectious diseases, including COVID-19,  as part of the jail booking process. If Jail Health Services identifies a person with symptoms or exposure to an infectious disease such as COVID-19, they may request that the arresting agency safely transport the individual to the appropriate medical facility. 

If someone has unwittingly exposed others to the coronavirus in the jails, Jail Health Services may place people who have been exposed to the virus in jail medical isolation units. The Sheriff’s Office has set aside a number of jail cells for medical isolation and can convert more as needed. 

If a person develops symptoms that require more extensive medical treatment than Jail Health Services can provide, they will arrange to transport the individual to the appropriate facility. 

How does the Sheriff’s Office protect staff?

Our deputies are trained to manage communicable diseases and protect themselves and the public. We follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standard precautions to prevent disease transmission, from washing your hands to not touching your face and cleaning and disinfecting environments that may be contaminated. 

The Sheriff’s Office also provides personal protective equipment to employees for specific working environments, such as jail. This may include disposable gloves; safety glasses or goggles; respirator mask; and antibacterial soap to flush skin. 

What steps has the Sheriff’s Office taken to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 in the jails and other public spaces where deputies provide law enforcement services? 

We’ve taken a number of proactive steps. These include:

  • Working with the Department of Public Health to identify and monitor our most vulnerable populations, who may be older or immunocompromised, to ensure their safety.

  • Posting notices to incarcerated people and the public educating them about prevention strategies including frequent hand washing and not touching your face. 

  • Issuing training bulletins, health safety reminders and video messages to staff advising them how to protect the public and themselves from community outbreak.

  • Emailing the jail visitor population and advising them to postpone visits if they have been exposed to coronavirus or feel ill.

  • Increased cleaning and sanitizing of jails and workspaces. 

  • Identifying housing for medical isolation if needed. 

We will expand upon these measures if we need to as indicated in our COVID-19 Response and Action Plan.

Is there a danger that someone from the outside could bring the virus into the jail?

Yes. But that’s not unique to the jails, the courts or the other public buildings where the  Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement protection. The Department of Public Health has established guidelines based on the Centers for Disease Control protocol to prevent and control an outbreak of COVID-19. My office follows these guidelines.

For now, we are asking people not to visit the jails or any public spaces if they answer “yes” to any of these questions:

  • Do you have a cough, fever or difficulty breathing?

  • Have you traveled to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea in the last 30 days?

  • Have you been in contact with anyone who has been told they have the coronavirus?

Our goal is to minimize public exposure to the virus while carrying out our mission to protect public safety in the City and County of San Francisco.   

For more information about COVID-19, visit or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention frequently asked questions page.