LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – As the coronavirus continues to spark panic buying across the region, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials announced Monday that they will be increasing patrols around grocery stores, while also reducing the department’s in-custody population to reduce the risk of the virus spreading through the jail system.

L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva addresses reporters on March 16, 2020, regarding the coronavirus. (CBS2)

In a news conference Monday morning, L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department will be increasing patrols at certain supermarkets.

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“Right now, this is a precautionary measure only because the increased presence of people, in particular in shopping centers, supermarkets, Costcos, wholesale distribution points…just in case there’s any sort of conflict,” Villanueva said.

Furthermore, Villanueva said the department will be releasing people with less than 30 days left on their sentences.

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Since Feb. 28, inmate levels have dropped from 17,076 in custody to 16,459 — a reduction of more than 600. Villanueva said many of those people were freed because they had less than 30 days left on their sentence. He also said deputies have been instructed to cite and release people in select circumstances.

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He stressed that no one in the jails has tested positive for coronavirus, although 35 inmates are under quarantine at various jail facilities.

People who are brought to the county jail are also being heat-scanned.

Villanueva said he has directed deputies to cite and release “everyone they can,” adding anyone showing viral symptoms must receive medical clearance before they can be booked into a correctional facility.

“They’re doing their best,” he said, adding the average number of arrests have dropped from 300 to just 60 per day. “They’re doing a good job of triaging who needs to be arrested and not.”

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)