LOS ANGELES (KTXL/AP) -- Two groups of inmates at a Los Angeles County jail tried to infect themselves with the coronavirus by sharing water and a mask, and within two weeks 30 prisoners tested positive, authorities said Monday.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva at a briefing showed surveillance videos from two dormitory units at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic.
The footage captured inmates in one unit sharing a container of hot water and others in a second unit sniffing a mask.
The sheriff said the inmates used hot water to try to raise their temperatures just before a nurse checked them. An elevated temperature is a symptom for coronavirus.
Villanueva said the inmates mistakenly believed that if they were infected they would be freed.
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None of the 30 inmates required critical care when they were sick, though some had moderate symptoms, said Bruce Chase, the department’s assistant sheriff of custody operations. No prisoners within the county’s jail system — the largest in the country — have died from the virus.
The mid-April video showed a group of inmates passing around a mask and sniffing it. As authorities were investigating that incident, they found out about a second case where inmates were sipping from the same container of water in late April.
Within two weeks, 21 inmates in the water container case had COVID-19 and nine prisoners from the mask incident were sick, Chase said.
The sheriff’s department has released more than 5,000 inmates during the pandemic to create more social distancing.