HOUSTON - More than 8,000 inmates, many in poor health, are packed into the Harris County Jail amid a rampaging pandemic.
For Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, the challenge has required a Herculean response, with life or death for literally hundreds of souls, dependent upon his leadership.
“We operate within tight confines. We have a lot of people congregated in settings and a lot of people coming in with underlying issues,” said Gonzalez.
And yet despite plentiful predictions of catastrophic loss, only three Harris County inmates have perished as a consequence of COVID-19 since March – an extraordinary outcome rooted in the rigor of prevention instituted by the sheriff.
“Our medical team that we have in-house stayed focused. Our detention officers stayed focused. The protocols we put in place really helped. The screening upfront, being able to quarantine effectively and really manage those populations, while it was a logistics nightmare, proved to be effective,” said Gonzalez.
Most critical, says Gonzalez, is preventing the virus from entering the building.
To that end, 95 percent of inmates have been tested along with nine out of 10 members of his own department.
“We learned that some were coming to work asymptomatic. They didn’t even know it. So we were able to nip that in the bud, make sure that they were quarantined, get better and get them back to work,” said Gonzalez.
The sheriff says the success achieved at the Harris County Jail is verifiable proof that across the board testing, PPE, and distancing are among our most potent weapons against the spread of COVID-19.