Walker-Sayle on lockdown due to COVID-19 cases
The Walker-Sayle prison unit is currently on lockdown after a large number of inmates tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. As of Monday, August 17, the unit reported 75 individuals as active cases, with four individuals recovered, according to data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).
The data also counts three employees as active cases, and seven employees as recovered. TDCJ data shows 244 individuals with medical restrictions at the facility and 75 individuals are medically isolated.
“The majority of the cases are asymptomatic and is due to the mass testing that was performed on Monday, July 27,” Jeremy Diesel, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Director of Communications said. “Due to the mass testing, only a handful of those cases are active, we expect a majority of those active cases to move to recovered soon.”
With 244 inmates under medical restrictions, the restrictions are characterized as when offenders in TDCJ are close contacts of a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case. Whether the case is another offender or staff member, the inmate is placed in medically restrictive housing for 14 days. Medical observation will occur in the medical restriction area (cell or dorm) and have temperatures checks daily. Meals will be served in the restriction area and offenders are excluded from group activities. Staff interacting with medically restricted offenders will wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
Although the Walker-Sayle Unit is in Stephens County, the total number of active or recovered cases does not factor into the case count within the community.
“My understanding is that TDCJ has their own numbers,” County Judge Michael Roach said. “It counts in our state numbers, but not in the local count. That’s because some communities have large prison systems in their county and those numbers are taken and reported to the state. That’s not saying these people don’t matter, but the state has jail standards, an agency, that can close a jail/prison down if they’re not following certain protocols. The state doesn’t report that to us, they are tested by a private lab that the prison uses. What we as a community do count is the guards, staff, and employees that live in this community. TDCJ won’t take prisoners right now and our local jail is getting crowded with inmates needing to go to prison.”
Stephens County provides the Walker-Sayle Unit with health insurance, a nurse, and a doctor that visits periodically.
“This year, we will pay $92,000 or $93,000 for the health policy for the treatment at the unit,” Roach said. “There is a nurse that comes for 20 hours per week, and a doctor visiting every other week. The unit also has a clinic, so I am proud of how they treat inmates at the unit.”
The Breckenridge American will continue to monitor the lockdown at the Walker-Sayle Unit.