After a sudden spike in cases over the weekend, the McLennan County Jail announced Tuesday it would be enforcing a 10-day lockdown in hopes of preventing further spread.
“We did what I call a soft lockdown. We are asking all the courts and any visitors or anyone else that there is no movement in our facility unless we have to, like for medical reasons or emergencies or stuff like that. We’ve been washing everything down and keeping everybody separate so we can stop the spread at this point,” said Major Ricky Armstrong, the McLennan County Jail Administrator.
“We have areas in the jail called negative pressure pods where folks that are positive and sick, we can handle them in there without endangering the rest of the building,” said McLennan County Judge Scott Felton.
As of Wednesday, 30 jail inmates and seven officers have tested positive for COVID-19, and 283 are currently in quarantine.
“That does not mean that they are not arresting people who are breaking the law out there, so don’t be alarmed about this. But it is a little bit of a different operating procedure than we normally have,” said Judge Felton.
The jail has also implemented a cleaning rotation every 45 minutes inside the tanks and has increased their COVID-19 rapid testing.
“We’ve implemented a bunch of new cleaning strategies, working officers in the same areas, because we are the ones bringing it in. They can’t go anywhere, so all of our inmates that come in from the streets we quarantine them for 10 to 14 days prior to putting them within the general population,” said Major Armstrong.
Not only does the lockdown directly impact the county jail, but it will also delay county court hearings.
“It limits what we can do here in the courthouse in regards to special type judicial hearings, like plea bargains and those things,” said Judge Felton.
“I know there is a huge concern with the citizens of the community, especially the relatives who have people in jail, and we are doing everything we can to keep them safe,” said Major Armstrong.
While vaccine distribution is continuing to grow, the priority is medical workers, first responders, and those 65 or older with underlying health conditions. There is not an answer as to when jail officers, medical staff, and inmates can receive the vaccine.