AUSTIN, Texas — Thousands of Texas prisoners are on lockdown as COVID-19 rips through dozens of state facilities.
As of May 2, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 1,680 prisoners have been tested for COVID-19. That’s about 1% of the prison population in the state.
Of those tests, 985 have been positive, which is about 59%.
Meanwhile, the TDCJ has made coronavirus testing optional for employees, according to spokesperson Jeremey Desel.
So far, 1,932 TDCJ employees have been tested for the virus, which is about 54% of all department employees.
Of those tests, 439 have been positive, which is about 23%.
Some advocates are begging for more testing to happen.
“You can be asymptomatic and not have any kind of symptoms,” Texas Inmate Families Association representative Monica Garza said. “So that’s a big concern that we feel like maybe more testing should be done to prevent the spread.”
Desel said the department is testing prisoners with symptoms or people who are considered likely to test positive. TDCJ also recently started testing asymptomatic people who workers think could be at risk.
The KVUE Defenders asked if more testing needs to be done.
“We’re taking our guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, from the Texas Department of State Health Services, as far as what types of testing may or may not be necessary,” Desel said.
A representative with DSHS said TDCJ is allowed to offer tests to anyone inside its facilities.
On Friday, the KVUE Defenders reported a 38,000% increase in prisoners with coronavirus for the month of April.
In response, Desel said any entity in Texas has seen a big rise in the number of cases.
Local county jails also continue to fight the coronavirus.
In Travis County Jail, there are 1,690 inmates. Eighteen inmates are in quarantine and 178 are in isolation.
So far, no inmates or employees have tested positive for the virus in Travis County Jail. One test is still pending and 44 inmates have been tested so far, while 45 employees have been tested.
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