Inmates await tests after 2 jailers are positive

RAYMONDVILLE — Many residents here Tuesday were concerned the Willacy County Jail could become the site of a COVID-19 outbreak after two jailers tested positive for the coronavirus two days before.

Meanwhile, officials were awaiting employees’ test results while preparing to test more than 40 inmates.

“Everybody’s concerned about it,” Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said.

On May 31, two jailers — a man in his 40s and a woman in her 30s — tested positive for the COVID-19 virus after complaining of symptoms.

Meanwhile, another jailer tested negative and results are pending on a fourth test, Frank Torres, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said.

The four employees have been quarantined.

On Monday, officials tested more than 40 jail employees and about 12 Raymondville police patrolmen and detectives.

“The police officers were tested over an abundance of caution of the city because they frequent the jail to bring in prisoners,” Torres said.

“It’s just a matter of waiting for the results,” he said, adding it could take 24 hours to 15 days to receive test results.

Taking precautions

At the sheriff’s department, officials didn’t know how the two jailers contracted the virus, Maj. Andres Maldonado said.

“Everybody’s taking precautions and everybody’s concerned,” he said, referring to more than 40 jail employees.

Inside, officials were disinfecting the building while trying to separate inmates held in cells.

“We’re isolating the inmates as much as possible and making sure they wear masks,” Torres said. “We have multiple people in each cell. We’re trying to keep them apart as well as we can. We are deep-cleaning the entire facility. We’re trying to maintain sterility.”

Officials continued to work with the state health department and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to test more than 40 inmates, Torres said.

Meanwhile, officials have closed the jail to inmates’ visitors.

“All inmate visitation remains closed and all visitors will continue to be required to be screened,” a press release stated, adding officials will continue taking visitors’ temperatures.