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COVID-19 Updates

  • What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
  • COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, is an upper respiratory tract disease caused by one of the seven coronaviruses known to infect humans. It was first identified in humans in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2.

  • Who is at risk?
  • With community spread of the virus everyone is at risk. There is virtually no area in Texas that does not have some level of COVID-19 infection currently. Especially vulnerable are people in close contact with those who have COVID-19 and people who care for patients with COVID-19.

  • What is community spread?
  • Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. Each health department determines community spread differently based on local conditions. For information on community spread in your area, please visit https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/.

  • What are the symptoms?
  • Symptoms, which may appear two to 14 days after exposure, are wide ranging including fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, gastro-intestinal problems, and others. Most people who become sick do not require hospitalization, but older adults, people with chronic health conditions, and people with compromised immune systems are more likely to require more advanced care.

  • How does it spread?
  • COVID-19 is believed to spread mainly from person-to-person -- between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) with one another and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

    It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

  • What can I do to prevent it?
  • There are no available vaccines at this time to prevent COVID-19. That is why you should implement the personal prevention protection methods used to prevent flu and other infectious diseases. (See graphic below).

    Clean high-touch areas – counters, tables, doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, nightstands – every day using household cleaning spray or wipes according to label directions.

  • Should I wear a face mask?
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises people to wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people not living in your household and particularly where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

    COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.

    The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

  • Does TDCJ issue face masks?
  • Since April, TDCJ has issued cotton face masks manufactured by the agency to all employees and offenders. The agency has manufactured more than 1.5 million of the masks and they are switched out for laundering frequently. Masked masks are required for all persons entering any TDCJ facility including administrative offices. Offenders are required to wear masks at all times unless they are in their sleeping area.

  • How do I wear a face covering correctly?
    • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
    • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
    • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
    • Make sure you can breathe easily

  • What is "Close Contact"?
  • The CDC says in the context of COVID-19, an individual is considered a close contact if they a) have been within approximately 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time or b) have had direct contact with infectious secretions from a COVID-19 case (e.g., have been coughed on). Close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a common space with a COVID-19 case. Data to inform the definition of close contact are limited. Considerations when assessing close contact include the duration of exposure (e.g., longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk) and the clinical symptoms of the person with COVID-19 (e.g., coughing likely increases exposure risk, as does exposure to a severely ill patient).

  • Who is allowed to enter TDCJ correctional facilities?
  • Governor Abbott suspended visitation to our 104 prison units on March 13, 2020. That includes personal visitation, media and attorney visits. The suspension will continue until lifted by the Governor.

  • When will visitation resume?
  • We know that there is no substitute for seeing and visiting with your loved one in person. We are working to get visitation back up and running, but it is dependent on stopping the spread of the virus in the community and the order of the Governor. In the meantime, TDCJ is working on establishing other lines of communication.

  • What about education and other programming?
  • Windham School District employees are offering distance learning only as are other education partners. There are in-cell packets being prepared and distributed for a number of programs. Currently the district is on summer break.

  • Are offenders being transferred to parole ordered programs?
  • Yes. The agency is conducting limited transfer of offenders needing to begin parole voted programs.

  • How are intake offenders being screened?
  • The intake of new offenders entering the TDCJ system from county jails has resumed on a limited basis. Offenders are screened prior to being accepted into the intake facility. Individuals will have an additional medical screening upon arrival at an intake facility.

  • What is Confirmed vs. Suspected COVID-19 case?
  • According to the CDC, a confirmed case has received a positive result from a COVID-19 laboratory test, with or without symptoms. A suspected case shows symptoms of COVID-19 but either has not been tested or is awaiting test results. If test results are positive, a suspected case becomes a confirmed case.

  • What is "Medical Isolation"?
  • Medical isolation refers to confining a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case to prevent contact with others and to reduce the risk of transmission. Medical isolation ends when the individual meets pre-established clinical and/or testing criteria for release from isolation, in consultation with clinical providers and public health officials. In this context, isolation does NOT refer to punitive isolation for behavioral infractions within the custodial setting.

  • What is "Medical Restriction"?
  • Offenders in TDCJ who are close contacts of a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case (whether the case is another offender or staff member) will be placed in medically restrictive housing for 14 days. Medical observation will occur in the medical restriction area (cell or dorm) including temperature checks daily. Meals will be served in the restriction area and offenders excluded from group activities. Staff interacting with medically restricted offenders will wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

  • What are the impacts of a Precautionary Lockdown?
  • Precautionary Lockdown is for the protection of everyone and is intended to restrict movement of offenders to stop any spread of the virus. The lockdown is instituted for 14 days from the most recent positive or pending COVID 19 test.

  • Is TDCJ performing COVID-19 testing?
  • Since May, TDCJ in cooperation with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) has been performing mass testing on employees and offenders in TDCJ. So far there have been more than 200,000 tests performed. These tests are only performed on asymptomatic persons using an oral swab test.

  • What happens if an offender or staff member tests positive?
  • If an offender tests positive they are moved to Medical Isolation for at least 14 days from the date of the test. They will only be housed with others of the same testing status if single cell housing is not available. Offenders who have shared a dorm or close contact area with that offender would then be placed on Medical Restriction and medically checked daily by medical staff. Unit staff who test positive are required to self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of the test.

  • How can I get more information about testing and TDCJ statistics?
  • The TDCJ COVID-19 dashboard is available at https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/covid-19/mac_dashboard.html. The information there is updated daily and includes testing statistics for offender and staff along with medical restriction, isolation and precautionary lockdown information by unit.

  • What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
  • PPE consists of mask, gloves, eye protection and gloves.

  • Is there a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
  • No. TDCJ currently has stockpiles of N-95 and KN-95 masks along with millions of pairs of gloves and other PPE. TDCJ has manufactured more than 1.5 million cloth masks that have been distributed all over the state.






Helpful Links:

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) - News Updates COVID-19
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) - Texas Case Counts Map
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)- Coronavirus (COVID-19)
CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - World Map
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