Confirmed COVID-19 cases at Dallas County Jail now up to 28

The number of coronavirus cases at the Dallas County Jail has increased from five cases last week, to now a total of 28.

Health officials have said it's very easy for the virus to spread in an environment like a jail or prison, where there is a dense population.

But one doctor has said that at this point, with 28 positive cases at the Dallas County Jail, the jail might need to consider masks for all employees and inmates.

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A majority of the cases are inmates, but six are detention officers and two are clerks.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office said an outbreak plan is in place, which includes different levels of quarantine.

During the intake process, preliminary screening questions related to COVID-19 are being asked to inmates.

Those raising a "red flag" are assigned to separate areas, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.

Inmates who test positive will be quarantined in zero pressure designated jail cells.

Keeping the virus from spreading within the jail is one thing, but Dr. Nikhil Bhayani, with Texas Health Resources, said there is also the impact it could have within the community outside the jail.

Inmates are still being released and employees come and go daily.

"Anytime you're in a closed setting and then you know, you come out into the community, you definitely are exposing others to the virus also," Dr. Bhayani said. "The ideal practice would be, because they have been exposed, would be to self-monitor themselves for symptoms. When you get home, try to take a shower, wash yourself down, keep the clothes separate. If you have symptoms, then the best thing would be to isolate yourself from other family members."

Many jails and prisons across the country are in the same situation.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said it has a total of 22 cases across all its facilities.

But the difference here is that most of the cases are employees, staff or contractors, most of whom are now at home in self-quarantine.

The TDCJ has been stepping up efforts by manufacturing thousands of cotton masks and face shields to distribute in the jails.

They have also made changes to parole visits, as low risk offenders are checking in by phone, and for moderate-or-high risk offenders, with parole officers now doing home and work visits.

But, they are practicing social distancing.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office released the following statement: 

“The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office prioritizes the needs of the employees and inmates. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, facemasks have been distributed to employees upon request. A shipment of supply arrived last week. The supply included facemasks, face shields, sanitizer, coveralls, gowns, and gloves. As this novel pandemic progresses, we have taken precautionary measures by distributing masks and gloves to our detentions staff. While we have PPE gear in supply, it is not an un-limited quantity. In an effort to be prepared, a precautionary email was distributed from our detentions administration. However, at this time, we do have an adequate supply to provide a mask to each employee In the Dallas County Jail.”