Counselor at Texas prison tests positive for COVID-19

March 24, 2020 GMT

RICHMOND, Texas (AP) — A counselor who works in a Texas prison has tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first time the disease caused by the novel coronavirus has been reported in the country’s largest prison system.

Meanwhile, San Antonio-area officials reported their first COVID-19-related death and Dallas County health officials reported that county’s third and fourth deaths from the virus.

The substance abuse counselor was informed that he tested positive for the disease Sunday after doing “cell side counseling” at a prison outside of Houston last week, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman said Monday.

The counselor, an employee of the Management and Training Corporation, has been ordered into quarantine. The prisoners who had “limited contact” with the counselor through “hard cell doors” are in a restrictive housing unit, spokesman Jeremy Desel said in statement.


The counseling took place through a locked door and involved “no physical contact,” Desel said. The 300-person prison where the counselor was working is in Richmond and houses people with substance-abuse disorder.

The vast majority of people who contract the virus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia, especially in older adults and people with preexisting health problems.

The counselor passed an “unit entry screening” last Tuesday before going to work and attending a training with other employees from his company. The counselor went home early that day and saw a doctor, who approved him to return to work at the prison, which he did Saturday, Desel said.

Desel said the counselor was unaware he’d been tested for COVID-19 before receiving the results. The other MTC employees who were at the training with the counselor are also in quarantine and no one who had contact with him is currently symptomatic, Desel said.

Meanwhile, San Antonio, Dallas and Dallas County have ordered residents to stay at home, except for essential activities. Houston, Austin and Fort Worth also are considering similar restrictions.

San Antonio and Bexar County health officials reported their first fatality related to the outbreak of the new coronavirus. In a statement issued Sunday, they said a woman in her 80s was being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and yhad a history of underlying health isesues when she died Saturday.

Dallas County’s latest coronavirus deaths were two Dallas men in their 60s who had been hospitalized in critical condition. In a statement issued Monday, the county health department said one man had underlying high-risk chronic health conditions, but the other did not. No other information was provided on either case.

The deaths bring the statewide COVID-19 fatality toll to nine.


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