Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County Jail inmate, jailer test positive for COVID-19

Stephens County Jail inmate, jailer test positive for COVID-19
July 31
13:29 2020

An inmate in the Stephens County Jail has tested positive for COVID-19 this week, according to a news release from Sheriff Will Holt. Earlier this month, a jailer tested positive for the disease caused by the novel (new) coronavirus, but officials know of no interaction between the two.

On the afternoon of Thursday, July 30, jail administrators received a positive COVID-19 test result for a male inmate. The inmate was tested on Monday, July 27, after he self-reported that he thought he was running a fever. 

He has been placed in a separation cell for medical purposes; however, he informed jail staff that he is feeling normal and demonstrates no detectable symptoms, the news release states.

The inmate has been in the jail for several months. Before being moved to the separation cell, he was in a jail pod with five other inmates, and no new inmates have been added to the jail pod that he was in since May 27, Holt said.

“The weird thing is, he has been symptom-free for five days,” Holt said. “He’s really only had one day, not even a day, one temperature-check that was slightly elevated, but not considered a fever.”

None of his former pod-mates have shown to have a fever, nor do they have any other symptoms, the sheriff reported. They were tested this morning, Friday, July 31, as a precautionary measure. Holt said they expect to receive the results on Monday.

Additionally, the inmate who tested positive was re-tested along with his former pod-mates.

“We did that because of the uniqueness that he hasn’t had any symptoms other than a few hours of an elevated temperature that wouldn’t even qualify as a fever,” Holt said. “And, so I asked the medical doctors that we seek counsel from if they would have a problem with us testing him again, and they said, no, that was perfectly fine. So, we went ahead and tested him again today (to rule out the possibility of a false-positive).”

If any other inmates show symptoms of COVID-19, they will be tested, as well. There are currently 33 inmates in the jail.

Holt said that the inmates in different pods rarely intermingle. Typically, the only time inmates from different pods come in close proximity to each other is during jail ministry. The jail hasn’t had in-person jail ministry for several weeks. In general, inmates do have an opportunity to go to the recreation room several times a week but usually do not have contact with anyone from outside their pod.

“Currently, for the past two weeks, there has been no pod intermingling,” Holt said.

A detention officer in the jail tested positive on July 14. The officer last worked on July 9 and prior to that had no contact with the inmate who has tested positive or with any of the other inmates in that pod.

“There’s no everyday contact with the inmates (by the officers), other than sliding food in and out of the feeding chute,” Holt said. “But, as far as being in the same room, hanging out, anything like that, that’s just not how the jail is designed.”

Following the officer’s positive COVID-19 test, every detention officer has been tested, and all of the other officers tested negative. The officer who tested positive is showing improvement but is not yet symptom-free, Holt said.

The Stephens County Sheriff’s Office has notified the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and is implementing their advice, along with the guidance of a local doctor and the jail doctor, who is provided to the jail through Southern Health Partners. SHP is the medical group that the county jail contracts with to provide healthcare to inmates.

“If you’ve seen how this thing has spread across dozens and dozens of county jails in Texas and hundreds of jails and correctional facilities across the nation, there’s no magic wand; there’s no cure-all; there’s no set standards or guidelines or agreed-upon best practices to adhere to,” Holt said. “Now, that’s not to say that we’re not doing anything, because we obviously are. The examples of that lie with (the fact that) as soon as we found out we had a detention officer that tested positive, everybody else got tested and, of course, tested negative. We started taking various procedures to limit that, but there’s no perfect solution.”

Story by Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

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