The number of Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees diagnosed with coronavirus has reached 126, with 108 of the positive test results being among those who work in the jail.
There are currently 327 Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputies, detention officers and support staff on quarantine for possible COVID-19 exposure. Six of these employees are currently in the hospital. As of Monday, 153 previously quarantined employees – including 20 who previously tested positive for the virus -- have returned to duty. Seventy-nine Sheriff’s Office employees are still awaiting test results. Forty-three 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 Monday, 93 inmates in the Harris County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. An additional 50 inmates are in quarantine with symptoms indicative of the virus and are awaiting test results. More than 2,100 inmates are in observational quarantine, meaning they have no symptoms of the virus, but may have been exposed to someone who carries COVID-19.
All jail employees have been issued protective masks and are instructed to wear them while on duty. All inmates have also been issued masks. Regular temperature checks are performed daily on all employees as they report for duty. Other measures taken in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 among Sheriff’s Office staff and inmates include:
• Early isolation of arrestees with COVID-19 symptoms entering the jail at intake
• Masking all arrestees at the Joint Processing Center jail intake
• 7-day “buffer isolation” of all new inmates prio r to releasing to general population
• Social distancing of inmates (as much as possible), detention staff, and medical staff, even in break rooms
• Increased availability of soap, water, and hand sanitizer
• Increased frequency of facility sanitization efforts
• Increased cleaning supplies provided for inmate use
• Inmate education at the Joint Processing Center screening on mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand washing
• Suspended fees for inmate sick call requests
• Aggressive quarantining of a tank when an inmate is moved to isolation for COVID 19 symptoms
• Daily temperature screenings of worker inmates prior to leaving their tanks
• Examining ways to reduce inmate movement
• Replacing live meetings to conference calls
• Holding court hearings via video
• Implementing video inmate visitation
• Temperature screening all inmates released from jail
• Homeless screening all inmates leaving jail for hotel or shelter placement
• Screening homeless inmates with COVID-19 symptoms and placing them COVID-19 hotels
• Advising all inmates to go home and self-quarantine for 14 days after they leave jail
• All inmates are wearing masks upon jail discharge and have COVID-19 discharge instructions and resources