20 Texas prisons “on precautionary lockdown” after increase in positive cases for COVID-19

Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirms 72 employees, staff or contractors and 167 offenders in custody have tested positive for COVID-19. (File)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website Covid-19 Update Saturday, 20 TDCJ facilities are currently “on precautionary lockdown due to a positive offender or employee COVID-19 test impacting 26,073 offenders.”

There have been 72 TDCJ employees, staff or contractors and 167 offenders in custody who have tested positive for COVID-19, says TDCJ.

TDCJ added two more facilities Saturday; Scott and Terrell to their units on lockdown making it 20 units now: Bell, Beto, Byrd, Clements, Darrington, ETTF, Estelle, Goree, Hutchins, Jordan, Leblanc, Murray, Robertson, Scott, Smith, Stringfellow, Telford, Terrell, Woodman and Wynne Units.

The precautionary lockdowns extend for 14 days from the date of a positive test, says TDCJ with the possibility that those “dates may be extended to the date of the most recent positive test.”

The 20 facilities on lockdown have “an additional 10,651 offenders on medical restriction who may have had contact with either and employee or offender with a positive or pending COVID-19 test.”

The Wynne Unit in Huntsville, Texas has the highest number of offenders with a medical restriction at 2,259. Wynne is followed by the Beto facility with 1,856, Jordan with 993, Murray at 697 and Telford at 649.

Medically restricted employees are considered “asymptomatic” but will “receive twice daily temperature testing and anyone interacting with those offenders will wear N-95 mask and glove” personal protective equipment.

Correctional staff are wearing “cotton masks at all times.”

The Texas Tribune obtained a copy of a letter from TDCJ Executive Director, Bryan Collier addressed to all Texas Sheriff’s Saturday stating that, “To limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will halt all intake of inmates from county jails effective Monday, April 13, 2020.”

Collier’s justification for the new measure is “allow the TDCJ to fight this virus without further exposing both county and state inmates.”

This new state procedure will change when the state determines it is “safe to do so.”