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Friday, January 21, 2022

Santa Clara County Records First Prison Death From COVID-19

SAN JOSE – The coroner’s office has confirmed that a man in a Santa Clara County jail has died of COVID-19 after he was hospitalized in a record spike in infection last month, marking the county’s first official death from the virus.

Isaac Ruben Bermea, 50, of Gilroy, died Monday night, about three weeks after being admitted to Valley Medical Center after the sheriff who runs the county prisons called it a “routine checkup” by prison nurses.

Bermea has been held in San Jose Main Prison since August 2020 on charges that he killed his girlfriend in a house near San Isidro Park in the city of Gilroy. At the time of his arrest, the police called his name Isaac.

His hospitalization on November 9 comes amid a spike in COVID-19 in Santa Clara County prisons that began around November 2 and peaked on November 16, when the county recorded 159 active cases of infection in prisons. On November 9, 30 new cases were reported, marking the second largest one-day spike in infection.

The surge overwhelmed prison staff and county prisons at the Medium and Minimum Severity Prison Complex at Elmwood in Milpitas, where most infections were reported. Officials at the county health department said it was impossible to provide adequate quarantine and isolation of infected and exposed people because they did not have enough space.

Prison health officials have recommended that the district bring the total prison population to less than 2,000 to ensure adequate quarantine and distancing. The daily census in prisons as of Thursday morning was 2,427. Amnesty and early release measures in the first six months of the pandemic brought the population down from 3,200 to 2,100, but that number has increased since then and closer to current levels. Thanks to lesser efforts, some 100 prisoners were excluded from the census, but disagreements over who had the right to pursue release halted further reductions.

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