NEWS FROM THE SMITH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE:
May 18, 2020 Update:
At approximately 6:00 a.m. this morning, May 18, 2020, members of the Texas Department of Emergency Management arrived at the Smith County North Jail (Low-Risk Facility) to begin Covid-19 testing. The testing will be conducted on every Detention Officer and inmate within this facility and will, most likely, last until tomorrow. Additionally, testing will begin at the Central Jail on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, for all Detention Officers and inmates and is expected to last into Thursday.
As of today, May 18, 2020, the Smith County North Jail Facility has 10 inmates who have tested positive for Covid-19 and 19 Detention Officers who have tested positive. Also, we have one Detention Officer from the Central Jail who tested positive for Covid-19. This Officer was removed from the Central Jail prior to being tested due to known risk factors.
For more information on the Smith County Sheriff’s Office visit www.smithcountysheriff.com. The Sheriff’s Office also has a FB page and can be followed on Twitter at @SmithCSO.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States and more especially in Texas, the Smith County Sheriff's Office made numerous changes and utilized precautionary measures in the Smith County Jail as was recommended by the Northeast Texas Public Health District. These precautions ranged from more frequent disinfecting and cleaning, discontinuing the crossover of employees working in both jail facilities, discontinuing the movement of inmates from facility to facility, quarantined inmate’s areas were professionally cleaned and disinfected, etc.
Unfortunately, even though the above precautions were taken, that didn’t prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the North Jail Facility (Low Risk). The initial positive COVID-19 test was traced to a North Jail employee who became ill while at work. That employee was subsequently determined to test positive for COVID-19. It was determined this employee contracted the virus from a family member who works in the medical field. It is unfortunate that due to the range of symptoms from COVID-19, some people have the virus prior to displaying symptoms allowing for the unknown and easy spread. That employee is now back to work after testing negative in two tests for the virus.
We then began to have several inmates who had been in contact with the above mentioned employee test positive allowing for the spread of the virus even more without the knowledge and with several of these inmates being asymptomatic until they had spread the virus.
Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran and Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith made the decision to test all employees of the North Jail Facility in order to determine if there were more positive cases that were yet unknown. Those tests began early this past Tuesday morning and yesterday it was determined there were five employees of the North Jail Facility that tested positive yet were asymptomatic. These employees have since been placed in self quarantine. The five positive employees were out of a total of 31 being tested. This morning 18 more employees of the North Jail Facility were tested and those results are pending.
A total of 16 staff members of the North Jail Facility have tested positive as of this date, with one in full recovery. A total of eight inmates have tested positive and three tests are pending results. Six additional detention officers are quarantined pending test results.
Smith County also has its first positive test of an employee from the Central Jail Facility and is taking additional precautionary measures to curtail an outbreak in the Central Jail Facility.
In an effort to protect the inmate population, the Emergency Operations Center put in a State of Texas Assistance Request (STAR) to have all inmates at the North Jail facility in Smith County tested for COVID-19. Based on that request, an Emergency Medical Task Force from the Governor’s Rapid Response Team was assigned and is currently being mobilized to provide this testing. The Sheriff's Office expects the testing to begin in the next 48 hours.
For more information on the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, visit www.smithcountysheriff.com. The Sheriff’s Office also has a FB page and can be followed on Twitter at @SmithCSO.