A group of inmates at a Los Angeles County jail tried to infect themselves with the coronavirus by sharing a cup of water and a mask and within a week 21 prisoners tested positive, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Monday.
At a briefing, Villanueva showed surveillance videos from two units at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic.
The footage captured inmates in one unit sharing a cup of hot water and others in a second unit sharing 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.
“It's dismaying and it's disheartening,” he said.
The sheriff's department, which oversees the nation's largest jail system, has released more than 5,000 inmates during the pandemic to create more social distancing.
The department has freed inmates using several qualifications, including if they are within 60 days of release. Inmates who are awaiting COVID-19 test results are being held in a downtown jail's hospital ward or being treated at a county hospital if their symptoms are more severe.