TEXARKANA, Texas — Bowie County Judge Bobby Howell confirmed Monday that two staff members working at the Bowie County Correctional Center have tested positively for COVID-19.
Bowie County contracts with LaSalle Corrections for management of jails located on the Bi-State Justice Building's fourth floor and the annex located directly behind the Bi-State. Combined, the facilities have a 917-inmate capacity. As of midnight Sunday, the jail housed 698, Howell said.
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Howell said LaSalle gave the green light Monday for him to confirm the news that two of the private jail management company's Texarkana employees have the COVID-19 virus.
LaSalle Public Information Officer Steve Giddings confirmed the positive staff cases Monday as well. Giddings said no other staff or inmates are exhibiting symptoms of the virus at this time.
"We began preparing in January for the possibility an employee or inmate would test positive for COVID-19," said Dr. Pamela Hearn, medical director for Lasalle Corrections. "The safety of our employees and inmates in our care is our top priority during this time."
Hearn said medical staff are making rounds and cleaning and sanitizing throughout the facility.
The two employees who tested positive were sent home March 20 because they were not feeling well, Giddings said. After the employees sought medical attention and learned they were positive for COVID-19, employees who had contact with the confirmed positive employees were sent home to self-isolate for 14 days and one inmate has been placed in isolation as a precaution.
Giddings said that LaSalle staff have been provided with increased protective equipment, including gloves and masks. Staff are screening inmates during the intake process, monitoring inmates for symptoms and reducing employee contact with inmates "where possible."
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Employees are screened for symptoms and have their temperatures taken at the beginning of each shift, Giddings said.
LaSalle Corrections Director of Operations Jay Eason said the company is working closely with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and other federal, state and local agencies to stem the spread of the virus. Eason said the facility is operating without disruption.
Jail visitation was suspended earlier this month in light of the pandemic.