Fresno County Jail inmates can go back to court, flu precautionary ban lifted

The Fresno BeeJanuary 24, 2014 

Fresno County Jail inmates can again be transferred to the local U.S. District Court for criminal proceedings, as a result of a judge's order on Friday..

The transfers came to a halt a week and a half ago in response to a growing flu outbreak at the county jail.

The suspension was lifted at 5 p.m. Friday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill.

O'Neill said he'd been monitoring the flu outbreak through daily reports from the county Department of Health, along with consulting a doctor who gave him the "green light" to allow inmates in court again. Court operations will be completely normal again Monday, O'Neill said.

On Jan. 14, O'Neill ordered the suspension, saying he was doing so "in order to assure the health and safety" of judges, court staff, attorneys and the public.

O'Neill's order noted one county jail inmate had died of flu complications and another who appeared in federal court had been diagnosed with H1N1 influenza.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office said it quarantined hundreds of inmates in an attempt to prevent influenza A from spreading. On Tuesday, Fresno County Jail officials said 14 inmates had been confirmed with the virus and tests were pending for a handful of others.

So far this flu season, Fresno County has had 13 deaths. Throughout the central San Joaquin Valley, there have been 22 flu-related deaths.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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