ROBSTOWN, Texas — UPDATE: August 26
The Nueces County Health Department said that nearly 300 inmates at the Coastal Bend Detention Center near Robstown have tested positive for COVID-19.
Neither the Geo Group who runs and owns the facility, nor the US Marshals gave us any answers yesterday about what they’re doing to try to control the outbreak.
After our story ran last night, the Geo Group responded with an official statement to 3News.
The GEO Group stated in a news release that as of August 25, 36 GEO employees at the Detention Center have tested positive for the coronavirus. 20 of those are self quarantining at home right now with pay. The other 16 have fully recovered and are back on the job.
The Geo Group said in part that the Detention Center provides access to regular hand washing with clean water and soap throughout the facility. There is also 24/7 access to healthcare. The facility is also equipped with airborne infection isolation rooms.
The statement also goes onto say that personal protective equipment including face masks have been provided to staff and inmates. The company also claims it has specialized sanitation teams working to sterilize all high contact areas.
The Nueces County Health Department is watching very closely as the COVID-19 outbreak at the Detention Center has infected nearly 200 inmates.
So far, Nueces County health officials say that 194 inmates have tested positive there.
Over the past week, state health workers were called to perform testing on all 700 inmates. There are just 171 of those tests left to be analyzed.
"Interestingly, most are asymptomatic but that still means they could get transferred to another jail and they can still transmit the virus to other people so we need to make sure we can contain it and treat them," Health Director Annette Rodriguez said.
On top of the concerns about the inmates, we asked what’s going to be done to protect the 150 people who work there.
"We have tested the employees and so there’s about 150 employees so we’re still talking about testing the employees as well," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added that there’s a huge effort underway to disinfect the prison. She said the prison is also trying to keep the inmates separated for the ten day quarantine period.
County Judge Barbara Canales tells 3News that she’s watching the situation closely and getting updates from Rodriguez.
"I specifically asked the same questions, do you feel like they have a good medical plan, are you content with how they’re dealing with this particular outbreak, in particular with employees, and she said she was and she was in daily contact with the medical supervisor," Canales said.
Full Statement from the GEO Group
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, from the very beginning we have taken extensive measures to ensure the health and safety of those in our care and our employees, who are on the front lines making daily sacrifices at the facility. Consistent with all of our facilities, the Coastal Bend Detention Center provides access to regular handwashing with clean water and soap in all housing areas and throughout the facility; provides 24/7 access to healthcare; and is equipped with Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms. We have also deployed personal protective equipment, including facemasks for all staff and detainees at the Center. New facemasks are provided to all detainees at least three times per week or more often upon request. We also deployed specialized sanitation teams to sterilize high-contact areas of the Center and have developed intensive schedules and procedures for the cleaning and disinfecting of Center spaces above and beyond normal cleaning activities, as well as adjusting laundry schedules for more frequent cleaning.As of August 25th, a total of thirty-six GEO employees at the Coastal Bend Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty of the employees who tested positive are currently at home on self-quarantine with pay, while sixteen employees have fully recovered and returned to work after meeting the return-to-work guidelines for essential workers issued by the CDC.Any inmates who test positive have been placed on medical isolation, consistent with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to allow for medical staff to monitor their health and wellbeing. We would refer you to the U.S. Marshals Service for any further information related to COVID-19 inmates cases (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As a service provider, we would refer you to www.ice.gov/coronavirus for information related to individuals in the care and custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Coastal Bend Detention Center, as well as the agency’s latest guidance on COVID-19.We have issued a statement on our website on the steps we have taken at our facilities to address the risk of COVID-19 (see geogroup.com/COVID19 ), We will continue to coordinate closely with the U.S. Marshals Service and local health agencies to ensure the health and safety of all those in our care and our employees.”