Over 45 county inmates test positive for COVID-19

MGN Online

The Cameron County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that 45 inmates at a jail facility in downtown Brownsville have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting staff to initiate testing for the entire inmate population.

Detention officers with the department have been steadily testing positive, with the total number on Wednesday up to 32 detention officers.

An additional seven sheriff’s deputies and seven civilian staff members have tested positive, while one detention officer has fully recovered, according to a statement posted by the department on social media.

According to the office, inmates at the Ruben M. Torres Detention Center began to experience symptoms of fever over the weekend. “The symptoms were treated by medical staff. A large amount of inmates were then tested for COVID-19 as ordered by our jail facility doctor,” the statement read.

The department received word overnight that 45 inmates had tested positive. “More testing this morning (Wednesday) is continuing for the entire inmate population at this facility. Furthermore, we plan to include detention officers and civilian staff for COVID-19 testing as well,” wrote the department.

“Command staff and medical staff met this morning (Wednesday) in regards to prevention measures and treatment. We can assure you that all inmates in this facility are doing well and are receiving the proper medication and treatment.”

The department stated that it doesn’t release medical information on inmates in accordance to HIPAA laws. The office did not respond to a request for information regarding how many inmates are quarantined inside the county’s four jail facilities.

The department has worked with the Cameron District Attorney’s Office to release non-violent offenders from the facility in an effort to reduce the jail population in accordance with state guidelines, and medical staff triages every inmate and employee who enters the facility for symptoms.

Cameron County was contacted for comment regarding what officials are doing to ensure testing at all of the county’s jail facilities. The presence of nearly 50 positive cases raises questions as to whether reducing the population, screening people who enter, barring visitors, and implementing sanitation and preventative strategies in accordance with state guidelines is enough to protect those in custody from a virus the county health authority this week likened to a “freight train”.

According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards’ latest report, published on Tuesday, there are 635 inmates with active positive COVID-19 cases across Texas. Of that number, 582 of those inmates are pending results, and 4,708 inmates are under quarantine.

Five inmates are being treated off site for the virus across Texas and five have died after becoming infected. Two-hundred and twenty-eight jailers have tested positive and an additional 221 are quarantined and pending test results.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has reported 8,250 total positive inmate cases and 1,455 positive cases among staff. Of that number, 6,791 inmates have recovered and 928 employees have recovered.

Eighty-three inmates and eight employees have died of COVID-19, with an additional 30 deaths under investigation, according to TDCJ’s latest report, published on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, TDCJ began accepting a total of 250 sentenced inmates a week from county jails — a limited number — after the process was halted in April to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside state prisons.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com