coronavirus

5 Dallas County Jail Inmates Test Positive for COVID-19

The first inmate who tested positive had been in the county jail since December, jailers with contact history quarantined

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Five inmates at the Dallas County Jail have now tested positive for COVID-19, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says.

The first inmate to test positive is not "currently" housed at the Dallas County Jail, the sheriff's office said, and has been isolated in another location.

The inmate was among 50 others in a pod at the Dallas County Jail, Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

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Four other inmates who also lived in that space were showing symptoms and later tested positive for coronavirus.

"This was something that we had hoped would not come to pass, but it is what we have. This is why we had plans in place already to manage the situation," Brown said.

The first inmate to test positive is not “currently” housed at the Dallas County Jail, the sheriff’s office said, and has been isolated in another location. The inmate was among 50 others in a pod at the Dallas County Jail, Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The first inmate confirmed to have contracted the virus was in the custody of the sheriff's department since December, meaning the virus came into the jail through another person.

Brown said health officials are investigating how the virus got into the jail's population.

All of the other inmates from that pod are in quarantine along with a number of jail detention officers who were in contact with the original inmate.

"I don't have the exact number but we do have employees who have been in contact with that individual and have self quarantined," Brown said.

NBC 5 spoke with Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price Wednesday who said Brown has a plan to segregate the jail's population and that the intake area is isolated.

Price, who has watched the jail for decades, said he is satisfied with Brown's corona virus plan.

"We knew it was inevitable, but I have full faith and confidence in the sheriff," Price said. "It’s a challenge. But it’s not as though she did not recognize this was going to be a challenge."

After learning of the positive case in the county jail, Minister Dominique Alexander, with the Next Generation Action Network, released a list of demands Wednesday related to the jail and the spread of COVID-19, among which were the release of all inmates being held on misdemeanor warrants.

Sheriff's officials released a statement in response saying they were "working with our criminal justice partners in an attempt to release some inmates."

Jenkins also said the county is working to release inmates accused of less serious offenses who are only being held because they can not post bond.

Police officers often have close contact with prisoners and the jail.

The president of the largest Dallas police union, the Dallas Police Association, is Mike Mata, who is also a patrol Sergeant. Mata said he is spreading a message to fellow officers about the situation.

"I did talk to some folks at the county and I’m very confident they’re doing everything possible to mitigate this," Mata said. "The Sheriff can’t just release people. A judge has to make that decision and we have a responsibility to keep the public safe."

Sgt. Sheldon Smith is president of the National Black Police Association Dallas chapter.

Smith said officers must keep doing their jobs despite the coronavirus pandemic.

"It’s going to show up in places that we don’t want it to, but it’s going to show up in those places and we have to have a plan," Smith said. "We can’t be alarmed that it’s inside the jail, we have to expect that it’s in the jail."

Smith praised the Dallas Police Department for increasing the flow of information to officers about COVID-19. Two weeks ago, Smith said police had been slow sharing information.

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