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1st case of suspected monkeypox identified in San Francisco jail, outraging Covid-weary staff

A person walks by a beige colored building with a law enforcement star affixed on the facade
The exterior of the San Francisco County Jail at 850 Bryant Street on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

UPDATE, Aug. 10: The Sheriff’s Department announced Wednesday that lab results came back negative.

San Francisco on Friday identified the first case of suspected monkeypox in its county jails. 

The case was reported on the heels of state and national emergency declarations due to the spread of the disease in the U.S.  

Officials say they identified the possible infection in an unnamed inmate, who was booked into the jail on Seventh Street Friday. 

The inmate is being isolated in a cell under new protocol to prevent monkeypox from spreading, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Tara Moriarty said.

“This individual, and any other incarcerated person with a suspected or confirmed case of monkeypox, will be housed in isolation according to the Department of Public Health quarantine recommendations,” she told The Standard.

“The Sheriff’s Office has developed appropriate protocols in order to ensure that the individual is kept safe and that all persons—the justice-involved as well as employees—who come into contact with that person are kept safe,” she added.

Sources inside the jail say the inmate is not being kept in a medical ward with access to showers, raising concerns that officials aren't properly handling a patient with a disease easily caught by skin-to-skin contact.

Moriarty said the infected inmate is being kept separate from the general jail population, though, and has access to showers on a separate floor.

“He will shower alone and at a different time than all of the other inmates,” she explained. “The shower will be professionally cleaned and disinfected after use, per [Department of Public Health] cleaning standards. This is based upon the protocol successfully developed during the coronavirus pandemic. Jail staff will also wear proper [personal protective equipment] during cleaning procedures and whenever handling a justice-involved person.”

Meanwhile, the already taxed jail staff are concerned for their health after continued Covid outbreaks have spread among the rank-and-file and issues related to the virus have impacted staffing and safety.

“Staff are outraged and feel that again the health of themselves and inmates are being compromised by incompetent management,” said Lisette Adams, president of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Managers and Supervisors Association. 

As of Friday, according to San Francisco public health data, officials confirmed 444 cases citywide.

Also as of Friday, San Francisco counted 30 active Covid cases among the inmate population. Of the 966 employees at the agency, 542 have tested positive for Covid and 529 of have recovered. 

Check The Standard Monkeypox Tracker Dashboard for up-to-date information about case counts of the city’s outbreak. 

Michael Barba contributed additional reporting for this story.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at

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