The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office has called for help from the state to respond to the first case of COVID-19 in the county jail.
Nacogdoches County Sheriff Jason Bridges said the inmate, whose identifying information is not released, has been transported to a special COVID-19 jail facility operated by a partnership between the Smith and Gregg County sheriff’s offices in Longview. The jail’s staff nurse informed Bridges of the positive test around 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“We have an older jail, and we’re just not really equipped (to house him),” Bridges said in a video statement released Thursday. “We only have so many isolation cells and if we can move him to an area where we know just certain people with this virus are at, then that was our best choice.”
The inmate was taken to Gregg County today and will remain there until he recovers, Bridges said.
The man had been incarcerated since May 13 and didn’t show any symptoms of the coronavirus. He was tested after a family member contacted the sheriff’s office to report a household member had tested positive for COVID-19, Bridges said.
The sheriff’s office contacted the Texas Department of Corrections to have a team sent in to test all the other inmates in the jail. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, there were 235 inmates in the jail.
Since the outbreak, jail staff have been equipped with personal protective equipment like masks, and have regularly been cleaning the facility.
Still, a state sanitization team has been requested to help deep clean the facility, Bridges said.
Part of the preventative measures put in place at the jail have been keeping new inmates in a separate holding area and quarantining them for 14 days before releasing them into the general population.
“He was in a populated area with a certain number of inmates — those inmates have not been exposed hopefully to any other inmates in the jail,” Bridges said.
The infected individual was immediately quarantined from other jail inmates and staff, Bridges said.
“We’re trying to be extremely proactive with this,” he said. “It was expected at some point.”