Sheriff: No inmates test positive for COVID-19

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio confirmed on Monday that no inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 inside the county jails.

Officials tested one inmate on March 23 and received a negative result back three days later, according to the sheriff.

Lucio said officials at each of the four jail facilities operated by the department are adhering to guidance issued by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards recommending the release of non-violent offenders during the COVID-19 outbreak. “We’ve been lucky. Everything is going well, and I hope we can keep it that way,” said Lucio in a phone call. “With the help of the district attorney and the judges, we got rid of a lot of these minor cases that were pending here until this is over,” he said.

In late March, the department said any inmates displaying flu-like symptoms were to be isolated in negative-pressure cells and must receive medial clearance from a physician at a local hospital before release back into the regular population.

Officials at the Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center constructed a triage tent late last month in which all staff, attorneys, and inmates are screened for coronavirus symptoms. Visitation is still suspended and screening stations have been set up at the entrances of each facility.

According to Lucio, inmates also have access to tele-medicine appointments. A triage employee working the tent at Carrizales in March told reporters that inmates were not provided with masks and gloves as “they don’t have a reason to ask for gloves or masks at this time because there are no cases”.

Lucio confirmed on Monday that inmates are not provided with masks and gloves. In March, he noted that officials were supplying inmates with cleaning and sanitizing equipment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recent studies suggest that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. Advocates have emphasized the virus’s potential to spread rapidly in prison settings where inmates cannot socially distance inside cells.

The sheriff estimated Carrizales was at half its 1,100-inmate capacity at the end of last month and said the department has maintained compliance with all state-mandated guidance related to the pandemic.