Sheriff cites ‘scary numbers’ as COVID-19 cases climb at jail

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – The number of COVID-19 cases at the Bexar County Jail continue to rise, and Sheriff Javier Salazar says they’ll continue to climb as all inmates and personnel are tested for COVID-19, even those who have no symptoms.  As of Tuesday evening, there were 294 positive cases and of those, 217 were asymptomatic.

“Quite frankly, those numbers that are coming in here are scary numbers, absolutely, but I’d rather know,”he said.

He believes the quantity of coronavirus cases at the jail paint a picture of what’s going on in the community where testing, for the most part, is limited to people who are exhibiting symptoms.

“I think that if we went into any retail establishment or restaurant in the country or in the state, for that matter,  and we tested everybody in there, whether they appeared sick or not,  I think the numbers would be staggering of those that are asymptomatic positive,” said the sheriff. “It would scare everybody to see those true numbers.”

Complicating matters is the turnaround of inmates moving in and out of the jail everyday.   Salazar says 70 to 100 inmates are booked into the detention facility every day, and about the same number of detainees are released.  That includes some who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms, but they’re carrying the virus out of the jail and into the community.

“If somebody is infected and we know that they’re infected, but they’ve either paid their debt to society, they’ve served out their sentence or they’ve  paid their bond and are getting out, the fact that they’re COVID-positive, I don’t have the right to latch on to that guy and say, ‘Hey, you’re not going anywhere,'” said the sheriff.

Salazar says they do notify Metro Health that an inmate with COVID-19 has been released and health workers will  follow up.

How the novel coronavirus got into the jail is unknown, but Salazar raises the possibility that an employee could have brought the virus in from outside.

“We’ve had several health practitioners come in and test positive.  Some of them were asymptomatic, but they were making their rounds like they should, and unbeknownst to them, they were probably spreading the illness,” said the sheriff.

While the director of Metro Health said this week that “we have flattened the curve” in San Antonio and Bexar County, Salazar says that’s not happening at the jail.

“I don’t believe that we’ve peaked yet,” he said. “I think that we’re still on the climb, and again, I think because of our proactive testing efforts, our numbers are going to continue to climb even more so than the rest of the community.”


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