Harris County Jail Staff Experience Major Increase in COVID-19 Diagnoses

April 7, 2020 – The number of Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees diagnosed with coronavirus more than doubled in the first week of April as the virus appears to be spreading among jail staff.

Since April 1, positive COVID-19 test results have been reported for 16 detention officers and other staff assigned to work in the jail, bringing the total number of infected Sheriff’s Office employees to 30. In all, 20 of the Sheriff’s Office’s 30 positive cases are among jail staff.

The Sheriff’s Office has taken several steps in an effort to protect the 2,200-plus employees and 7,612 inmates working and living in the state’s largest jail. These steps include the required use of face masks, frequent intensive cleaning of all surfaces, and easily accessible hand washing stations. All employees undergo temperature checks before entering the jail, and regular temperature checks are also being performed among inmates. Social distancing practices that are encouraged in the free world are difficult to implement in the jail, although employees and inmates are encouraged to do so when possible.

There are currently 189 Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputies, detention officers and support staff on quarantine for possible COVID-19 exposure. One of these employees is currently in the hospital. Sixty-four previously quarantined employees have now been cleared to return to duty. Sixty-nine Sheriff’s Office employees have been tested, but are still awaiting results. Twenty-two employees have received negative test results.

The Sheriff’s Office is working with Harris County Public Health to identify co-workers, inmates, and members of the public who may have had close contact with the diagnosed employees so they can take necessary precautions, including quarantine and testing for those with symptoms.

As of Tuesday, three inmates in the Harris County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. An additional 52 inmates are in quarantine with symptoms indicative of the virus and are awaiting test results. The number of inmates on observational quarantine without symptoms because they were possibly exposed to someone with the virus now stands at 1,132.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office received an additional 200 testing kits for inmates.

Photo: Getty

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