EL PASO, Texas -- At least 99 of El Paso County’s Covid-19 infections come from an outbreak at the Rogelio Sanchez State Jail in far east El Paso, according to an analysis Wednesday by El Paso Matters.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reports that 85 inmates and 14 employees at the jail have tested positive at the jail. The numbers have tripled in two weeks as officials expanded testing at the jail.
TDCJ reports that 170 Sanchez inmates have tested negative for the virus. The agency said 103 inmates are on medical restriction, which means they were exposed to someone who tested positive so their movements are limited. Another 88 are in medical isolation, meaning they are sick and potentially contagious.
The Rogelio Sanchez State Jail can hold up to 1,100 inmates, all men, and employs 287 people, according to TDCJ. State jails hold people convicted of low-level nonviolent felonies and Class A misdemeanors. Most are first-time offenders.
El Paso City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said earlier this month that two detention facilities have reported Covid-19 cases. He refused to identify them.
City spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta said it’s health department policy not to release names of entities, whether it is where patients get admitted or where the health department investigates. "We release as much information as possible to keep the public informed but at the same time keep confidentiality of all parties involved,” she said.
The second detention facility in El Paso with positive Covid-19 cases is the El Paso County Juvenile Probation Department facility. Officials announced last month that a youth detained at the facility on Delta Drive had tested positive for Covid-19. They also indicated that three employees had tested positive too.
El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said no inmates at the county jails have tested positive for Covid-19 so far.
“But we are not turning away any arrestees, so the possibility is certainly there. However, to prevent any spread, every new inmate is being isolated for 14 days,” Wiles said.
Twelve detainees and one employee at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s El Paso Processing Center had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, but those numbers aren’t included in El Paso’s numbers because the tests and treatment are overseen by federal health officials.
In New Mexico, just north of the El Paso County line, more than 100 inmates and detainees and at least six employees at a private prison facility in Chaparral have also tested positive for Covid-19.