The Texas prison system will start larger-scale testing of some inmates and employees who have been exposed to the new coronavirus, according to an agency spokesperson.
The virus has swept through many Texas prison units; nearly 600 inmates of about 900 tested based on medical requests had the virus, according to reports from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. At least five prisoners and three employees with the virus have died. But despite outbreaks at some units, the agency had not performed mass testing of inmates who were exposed except at one dorm in a prison involved in a pandemic-related lawsuit.
On Friday and Saturday, testing will be available to TDCJ employees at the Beto Unit, a prison near Palestine with a large number of cases, and some inmate testing at that prison and other units will follow, TDCJ spokesperson Jeremy Desel said. He could not specify how many inmates would be tested but said it would not be entire prisons. The Beto Unit can hold more than 3,000 inmates.
As of Tuesday, nearly 200 inmates had tested positive for the virus while housed at Beto, Desel said. Many inmates at the prison have been moved to other units, but the number of cases continues to rise.
After consulting with the Texas Department of State Health Services, TDCJ decided to move forward with “surveillance testing” of those who have been exposed but aren’t necessarily ill. Previously, it conducted and reported only “medical testing” after a doctor ordered a test for a symptomatic inmate. It’s unknown how, or if, surveillance test results will be reported, Desel said.
Article by Jolie McCullough, texastribune.org