Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office faulted over response to courthouse COVID-19 outbreak

Among the county of Sonoma’s 4,400 staff, the Sheriff’s Office has the bottom vaccination price, with 73% of its roughly 600 staff totally vaccinated, in line with the county. Overall, 88% of county staff have been verified as vaccinated. As of Sept. 24, all unvaccinated first responders in Sonoma County have been required to bear weekly COVID-19 testing.

Junior stated that there’s an settlement amongst numerous entities which have employees within the courthouse that if an worker exams constructive, that particular person’s employer is liable for alerting different departments.

Valencia, the Sheriff’s Office spokesman, stated he had no data of that settlement and that different division leaders denied such an settlement exists. He stated public well being pointers require the company solely to inform courtroom directors.

However, state public well being laws require that if an worker exams constructive, their employer should notify all its workers that would have been uncovered in addition to alerting “any other employer who has potentially exposed employees in the workplace” inside in the future.

Sheriff’s officers appeared unclear about their obligations to inform different businesses with court-based staff in emails despatched days following the potential exposures.

“Do you share this information with the other justice partners? I want to make sure they are aware,” stated sheriff’s Sgt. Pete Quartarolo in a Sept. 21 e mail.

“I do not share information regarding non-court employees with” businesses affiliated with the courtroom, Junior wrote in response. “The Sheriff’s office generally notifies Probation, DA and PD (Public Defender) directly.”

The subsequent day, Quartarolo adopted up in an e mail to these division heads. “I also provide this information to Court Administration and recently learned that it is not disseminated to the justice partners. I will provide the information going forward,” he wrote.

Junior conceded that COVID-19 guidelines and laws are nonetheless sophisticated greater than a 12 months and a half into the pandemic.

“We have all been put in a position in this pandemic that has taken a lot of training and education and skill sets,” she stated.

“The sheriff seems woefully ill-prepared to communicate with justice partners,” she added.

Other emails obtained by The Press Democrat from a number of sources point out that a few of those that work in and frequent the courthouse nonetheless haven’t been notified of the extent of the outbreak and when or the place they could have been uncovered to contaminated bailiffs.

Local non-public protection legal professional Walter Rubenstein stated attorneys like him and their purchasers “always fall in the cracks, and we are the last to know.”

The attorneys realized of the constructive circumstances not via an official notification however via courthouse gossip. One native protection legal professional who declined to be named to guard others’ privateness stated that he was informed by sheriff’s deputies upon return that that they had contracted COVID-19. Some of them even reported experiencing ongoing signs of lack of style and scent, he stated. He estimated that the quantity out sick was over a dozen.

“I heard there was an outbreak with the sheriff — it was indefinite how many, it was indefinite what ‘outbreak’ meant,” Rubenstein stated.

Private attorneys and members of the general public don’t obtain formal notification in circumstances of an outbreak, as they don’t seem to be staff of any of the courthouse businesses. They are imagined to be reached by a county contact tracer if there was a possible publicity, Junior stated.

Contact tracing will be troublesome when a whole bunch of individuals cross via the courtroom every single day, Junior stated. But every courtroom has a log of attorneys and different courthouse employees who had been current, which contact tracers can use to trace down individuals probably uncovered to the virus.

More than per week earlier than the protection bar despatched its e mail, the Sheriff’s Office despatched its first e mail notifying courtroom officers of the outbreak. That Sept. 21 e mail went to Junior and recognized 5 concerned courtrooms over 5 days, from Sept. 14 via Sept. 21.

A second Sheriff’s Office e mail from Quartarolo got here Sept. 22 and notified different regulation enforcement and justice leaders of a “potential exposure.” It went to Ravitch, interim Public Defender Jeff Mitchell and Chief Probation Officer David Koch. It knowledgeable them of attainable exposures over a shorter three-day time span however in two extra courtrooms.

Lt. Andrew Cash, in a separate e mail that very same day, stated the division tracked the outbreak to a sheriff’s break room, the place staff take away their masks to eat and drink. The outbreak didn’t unfold to correctional deputies who supervise inmates contained in the jail or to any inmates, stated Assistant Sheriff Eddie Engram.

The emails gave no additional particulars, together with that a number of deputies had examined constructive for the virus.

When requested by Ravitch that day to offer extra details about what number of circumstances there have been and whether or not her workers of prosecuting attorneys, investigators and different courtroom workers is perhaps in danger, Quartarolo informed her that the outbreak included a half-dozen deputies at that time.

Cash replied to Ravitch’s e mail that the division had been working with county public well being and human assets officers to establish anybody outdoors the division who could have been in shut contact with an contaminated bailiff.

Ravitch stated Cash and Quartarolo “minimized the situation” in her e mail to Essick looking for higher communication.

None of the emails between sheriff’s officers and Ravitch point out notifying inmates, non-public attorneys, courtroom workers or members of the general public of their potential publicity.

Ravitch requested Essick to clarify why different county managers hadn’t been alerted to the outbreak so they may notify and shield their workers.

Ravitch stated Essick had not responded to her e mail. “We’ve not gotten to the bottom of it yet,” she stated.

You can attain Staff Writer Emily Wilder at 707-521-5337 or On Twitter @vv1lder.

You can attain Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or On Twitter @loriacarter.

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