Breckenridge Texan

Four more Stephens County inmates test positive for COVID-19

Four more Stephens County inmates test positive for COVID-19
August 05
09:28 2020

On Monday, Aug. 3, the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office was notified that four of the five inmates, who were housed with the inmate who first tested positive for COVID-19, also tested positive for the disease caused by the novel (new) coronavirus, according to a news release from Sheriff Will Holt.

Additionally, the first inmate diagnosed with the disease had been tested a second time, and that test also came back as positive. The inmate was first tested on Monday, July 27, after he self-reported that he thought he was running a fever.

There were six inmates housed in the same pod in the jail. One inmate’s test came back as negative for the disease.

“Please note that we are unsure which of them had it first, so it is not safe to assume that the one who was tested first spread it to the others,” Holt said in the written statement. “One or more of the four inmates who were tested on 07/31/20 could have had it before the inmate who was originally tested on 07/27/20. This could be due to any number of variables, one of which is that a person can carry the virus and have no symptoms or delayed symptoms.”

The pod-mates whose positive tests were received on Monday will remain housed together.

“This is the advice of local medical advisors, our jail doctor, and the (Texas Commission on Jail Standards),” Holt said. “Thus far they have not reported any symptoms, and we have detected no elevated temperatures or fevers.”

Inmates who have the virus, or who are known to have been exposed, have their temperature taken at least twice a day in the Stephens County Jail.

One of the pod-mates who tested positive has since been released on bail. He was instructed to quarantine at his house for at least 14 days. He was also told to get tested again on his own and to seek medical aid and guidance from his own doctors upon his release. The inmate lives in Breckenridge.

The pod-mate who was tested on July 31 and was negative has also been put into a medical separation unit. That was done so that if he has not contracted the virus between his first test date and the day of receiving those results, he will be protected from contracting it. He will be tested a second time this week, according to the news release.

The inmate who was initially tested for the virus will remain in medical separation due to other underlying medical conditions, so that jail personnel can increase the probability that he heals without additional re-spreading of the virus. The inmate is doing well and has only had an elevated temperature once, which was not high enough to be considered a fever, Holt said.

All inmates in the jail have been supplied extra hand soap and are encouraged to wash their hands regularly with the soap along with warm or hot water. “As has been the case since the pandemic began, washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm or hot water is considered a better way to kill the virus compared to using hand sanitizer,” Holt said in the news release. “Additionally, medical doctors have advised that the hand sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol. Both before the pandemic and during its time, correctional facilities have mostly had poor outcomes when issuing hand sanitizer to pods or cells. Historically, inmates have tried to drink the sanitizer in order to get intoxicated, or they have tried to alter or reduce the non-alcohol content of the sanitizer so as to make it more potent for intoxication purposes. It has also been used in other ways of which it was not intended.”

Detention Officer

In addition to the inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19, a Stephens County Jail detention officer, who was off-duty at the time, tested positive for the disease on July 13 and has not been at work since July 9.

According to the news release, on July 12, the sheriff’s office administration was informed that the officer was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and that a person who lived in the same household as the officer had been notified on the same date that their previous test showed positive for the virus.

The sheriff’s office arranged for the off-duty detention officer to be tested at an out of town location that offered a 24-hour turnaround time for test results. That test was administered the next morning, July 13. The detention officer was notified on July 14 of the positive test result.

The detention officer is at home and improving slowly, the sheriff said.

Upon learning that the detention officer had tested positive, every detention officer and the jail nurse, even from shifts that never or rarely come in contact with the positive detention officer, were tested for the virus. All of the detention officers and the jail nurse tested negative and have shown no symptoms.

All of the tests used the nasal swab, which tests for the actual virus, not the anti-bodies test.

The TCJS was notified as soon as the jail administration learned about the officer’s symptoms. The sheriff’s office provides daily reports to the TCJS about the officer and the inmates who have tested positive.

“All prayers and acts of kindness from the community for both our staff and inmates are much appreciated,” Holt said in the news release. “We cherish the support already expressed from our citizenry. We will keep the media and the public informed as information that is legally, ethically, and medically allowed to be released becomes available. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.”

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