The first wrongful death claim stemming from COVID-19 in San Bernardino County jails has been filed against the county and the Sheriff’s Department amid a resurgence in coronavirus-related illnesses among inmates.

The uptick, sparking outcry from prison rights activists, mirrors a seasonal surge in COVID-19 cases across the Inland Empire and Southern California that is flooding hospital emergency rooms and causing traffic jams at coronavirus testing sites.

As of Dec. 28, the Sheriff’s Department reported four new coronavirus cases in the past week at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, two at the High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto, and one at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino. No new cases were reported at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in Devore. One inmate was hospitalized with COVID-19, sheriff’s spokeswoman Mara Rodriguez said.

Since COVID-19 testing began in San Bernardino County jails in 2020, 2.9% of the total inmate population has tested positive for the potential deadly virus, with 1,671 of approximately 57,500 inmates testing positive and 389 other inmates awaiting test results, Rodriguez said.

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