Inmates of a Los Angeles County jail tried to intentionally infect themselves with the coronavirus by sharing drinks and masks in hopes they would be released, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Monday. Surveillance footage from inside the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic showed inmates passing around a bottle filled with hot water right before their temperatures were taken by a nurse. “With the hot water, they were trying to falsely elevate their temperature readings to generate a symptom for COVID-19,” Villanueva said at a press conference. “There was some mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive, there was a way to force our hand and somehow release more inmates out of our jail environment, and that’s not gonna happen,” he added.
Roughly a week after the incident, on April 26, the sheriff said that 21 inmates had tested positive. The sheriff’s department has released more than 5,000 inmates in the county in an effort to prevent overcrowding in jails amid the coronavirus. At least 375 inmates have tested positive for the virus as of Monday—a 60 percent spike from May 4.