More East Texas inmates test positive for COVID-19 and new steps are taken to limit spread

Updated: Aug. 12, 2020 at 5:28 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Smith County central jail has eight new COVID-19 positive inmates; bringing their current total to 15.

“We’ve isolated those cells from the remainder of the jail, the remainder of the population,” said Chief John Shoemaker, with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Shoemaker, there are no COVID-19 positive inmates at the north jail.

“We haven’t had any movement from the north jail to the central jail,” said Shoemaker. “We have had some movement from the central jail to the north jail, but those inmates that were moved were not quarantined or had any signs of the virus.”

Shoemaker said they still need to move inmates to the north jail to make room for incoming inmates.

“Our new inmates are isolated for 10 days and eventually moved into population, if they show no signs of having the virus,” said Shoemaker.

The jail has upped it’s cleaning protocols and is giving PPE to inmates, according to Shoemaker, to help stop the virus from spreading more.

“We’re taking further steps as far as cleaning the cells, further steps as far as inmates having more access to cleaning supplies; hand sanitizer,” said Shoemaker. “We have given them N-95 masks and we’ve allowed them to wash their hands with antibacterial soap on numerous times when they go to the public parts of the day room.”

Jail staff want families to know they aren’t allowed to give out medical information.

“I understand it, family members are calling to get an update of the condition of the inmate,” said Shoemaker. “But we’re not able to get into that in reference to HIPPA laws, or anything like that. We’re able to tell them he can contact you when he gets a chance and he has access to the phone. He can tell you about his medical condition, but we can’t.”

Of the 15 positive cases, none of the inmates have left the facility for medical treatment.

Shoemaker said they’ll be testing 96 inmates in about a week or so, including the current positive inmates and those they may have come in contact with.

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