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Advocates push for more COVID-19 testing in Travis County Jail

The Travis County Sheriff's Office has tested a little more than 3% of the inmates and staff at the county jail for coronavirus.

AUSTIN, Texas — Advocates in Austin are calling for more coronavirus testing inside the Travis County Jail. 

Austin Defense Coalition had a news conference on Friday, claiming the sheriff's office has not tested enough of the inmates or staff inside the jail. 

RELATED: Texas expanding COVID-19 testing in prisons

"Without testing, tracing and treatment, the Travis County Jail system is going to get a serious outbreak in the next month, with the way the numbers are going," Austin Defense Coalition President George Lobb said. 

According to TCSO records, 65 inmates had been tested for the virus as of Monday, which is about 3.8% of the total 1,733 inmate population in the jail. Those records show 61 staff have also been tested, which is about 3.4% of the about 1,800 employees total. 

Austin Defense Coalition representatives said on Friday Travis County should use some of the $61 million it received from CARES Act funding to provide testing to every employee and inmate in the jail. 

RELATED: 1% of Texas prisoners have been tested for coronavirus

"The city and county both independently have the resources right this minute to do it," Austin Defense Coalition representative Amber Vazquez said. "And there's no reason we shouldn't start today." 

A spokesperson from the Travis County Sheriff's Office sent this statement in response to the news conference:

"TCSO relies on the medical guidance and expertise of healthcare providers to ascertain when inmates in the care and custody of the Travis County Jail should be tested for COVID-19 or any other infectious disease. These providers base their decisions on clinical assessments, inmate evaluation and guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and Austin Public Health (APH). These organizations, recognized as the highest worldwide and local authorities on infectious disease control, establish and advise on the criteria to be used for testing. At this time, these authorities do not recommend universal testing or testing of asymptomatic individuals presenting without a fever and at least one other COVID-19 related symptom.

"TCSO will quickly adopt any change in assessment and treatment protocols at the urging of these medical professionals as warranted."

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