After a dramatic increase in cases two weeks ago, the number of COVID-positive people in the Santa Clara County’s prison system has declined dramatically.

This is because many prisoners were released before serving their full sentences in order to alleviate the crisis.

The county is renting a hotel in a busy Mountain View hotel to house people with coronavirus who need to be quarantined but have nowhere else to go.

Residents can also be people who have been exposed to the virus. But now NBC Bay Area has found out that some inmates were there too.

“These were people who were very close within a month, two or three months of serving their term,” said Dr. Jeff Smith, Santa Clara County General Manager.

Recently the prison system had more than 150 inmates infected with COVID and there was no way to isolate them all.

So the county started releasing many of them early on. Up to 140 inmates – mostly low-level offenders serving a sentence for DUI, minor bodily harm, or violation of probation requirements.

Some of them also had to be quarantined but had no place to do so. So they were sent to this hotel.

Nearby shops were down when we announced it to them on Thursday.

“We need to let everyone in the neighborhood know. Otherwise customers come and go, ”said business owner Ricky Chang.

And in two days the hotel was being watched, NBC Bay Area saw people pulling in and out or driving, though most were supposed to be quarantined.

“No no. I don’t want to get sick, ”said restaurant owner Angela Landaverde. “I’m vaccinated because I don’t want to get sick.”

The county has staff and probation officers watching, but admitting they simply cannot force residents to stay in their rooms.

“It’s not a prison,” said Smith. “Like any member of the public, we advise them to quarantine, wear a mask, stay, separate, and make sure they are protecting themselves. But we cannot force them to change their behavior. “

Neighbors said they should have been warned first.

There is an advantage. The county said in part because of the early release program – today there are only 20 inmates in their prison system who are infected with COVID-19.