Employee COVID-19 positive at Willacy State Jail

Arraignment for two Mexican nationals charged in border agent's slaying was held in the Willacy County sheriff's offices. (AP Photo/Valley Morning Star, David Pike) 8/05/2014

RAYMONDVILLE — State corrections officials have confirmed an employee at the Willacy State Jail has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Later this week, the state Department of Criminal Justice plans to test the jail’s staff and inmates, Jeremy Desel, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said Tuesday.

No other cases of the COVID-19 virus have been identified at the jail.

“There has been no evidence of any transmission,” Desel said. “The employee is required to quarantine for 14 days from the test. To return to work, they need a doctor’s note.”

Desel said the department has not tested employees and inmates since the test found the employee had contracted the virus.

“Not yet — a single case does not move the unit high up on the priority list,” he stated. “By the end of this week, however, we anticipate all will be tested.”

Across the state, officials are taking steps to curb the virus’ spread, Desel said.

“TDCJ continues to do everything in our power to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities and in the general public,” he stated.

“Visitation to units has been suspended since March 13 and the agency has been screening all staff and intake offenders since March 15,” he stated.

Desel urged residents to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Meanwhile, employees are wearing facial coverings to help protect themselves and others.

“We have manufactured more than 250,000 two-layer cotton tie masks which are worn both on and off units by our employees,” Desel stated. “These masks are recommended by the CDC to protect people from potential risks from the wearer.”

Officials have also given inmates facial coverings.

“Beyond our staff, they have also been distributed to offenders in medical restriction — individuals who may have been exposed to the virus — as well as those who are 65 years of age and older. Additional distribution is planned for other high-risk offenders in our system.”

“The TDCJ will continue to timely report numbers of cases associated with prison units and employees.”

fdelvalle@valleystar.com