Officials await virus results for nearly 100 inmates, employees at Willacy jail

MGN Online

RAYMONDVILLE — Officials are trying to control an outbreak at the Willacy County Jail after four inmates and two more employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

The new cases come after two jailers tested positive earlier this week.

Now, officials are awaiting results after testing about 50 county and city employees and 39 inmates.

Meanwhile, officials are planning to test county residents next week, Frank Torres, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said today.

“There’s going to be an outbreak — I guarantee it,” Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said.

So far, tests conducted last week and Monday show a total of four jail division employees have contracted the virus, Torres said.

On Monday, officials tested more than 40 jail employees and about 12 Raymondville police patrolmen and detectives who help transfer inmates to the jail.

On Thursday, officials tested 39 inmates, Torres said, adding he expects to receive results Monday or Tuesday.

Meanwhile, officials have “isolated” inmates “as much as possible” in cells holding “multiple people,” Torres said earlier this week.

Torres said officials are “trying to keep them apart as well as we can” while requiring inmates wear facial coverings.

“We’re just waiting for the results,” Maj. Andres Maldonado said at the sheriff’s office. “Everybody’s wondering — are we positive, are we negative?”

At City Hall, Municipal Judge Felicita Gutierrez expressed concern released inmates could carry the virus into the community.

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.

Gutierrez said she is giving personal recognizance bonds to defendants charged with misdemeanors as a result of the jail’s outbreak.

Meanwhile, Torres said authorities will continue to transfer defendants charged with felonies to the jail.

“If people get arrested and they’re felonies we’ll follow state judicial guidelines,” he said. “The county is not going to refuse to take someone who has to go to jail because they’ve committed a felony crime.”