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Harris County Sheriff's Office
Monday April 27th, 2020 :: 04:00 p.m. CDT


Aggressive Testing Measures Help Jail Medical Staff Manage Coronavirus Spread

April 27, 2020 – Widespread coronavirus testing of Harris County Jail inmates has confirmed the virus’ presence in many inmates who were already quarantined because doctors suspected they were infected.

Almost half of the 262 inmates who have now tested positive for coronavirus were asymptomatic, meaning they reported no symptoms of COVID-19.

Last week, working in partnership with United Memorial Medical Center, coronavirus testing was performed on more than 500 inmates who either had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or had been exposed to someone who had the disease. Before the expanded testing began, about 200 inmates had been tested, with about half testing positive.

Many of the new positive test results – 128 of them – were among inmates who had no symptoms of COVID-19 but had been exposed to someone else who was sick with the virus. Identifying asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus is crucial to containing the spread, because these carriers can now be isolated to prevent them from infecting others.

“While we’re still in the thick of our fight to contain the spread of coronavirus in the jail, I’m encouraged that our medical staff, detention officers, and support staff so far have managed to prevent the kind of massive outbreak that some other jails and prisons have experienced,” said Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. “Our people on the front lines of this effort are true heroes.”

Twenty-three inmates who previously tested positive now appear to have recovered from the disease.

The expanding testing results are encouraging, said jail Medical Director Dr. Laxman Sunder.

“These results tell me that what we’re doing – isolate, separate, and test – is working,” Dr. Sunder said. Dr. Sunder’s goal is to ultimately test 3,000 inmates of the jail’s 7,400-plus inmates. Dr. Sunder’s team currently has about 800 test kits on hand. “We can’t social distance in the jail, so we aggressively test and remove from the population.”

The number of Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees diagnosed with coronavirus has reached 202. More than 90 percent of those employees work in the Harris County Jail.

There are currently 393 Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputies, detention officers and support staff on quarantine for possible COVID-19 exposure. As of Monday, 251 previously quarantined employees have returned to duty.

Harris County Sheriff's Office
1200 Baker St
Houston, TX 77002

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 713-221-6000

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