SAN ANTONIO — Bexar County officials say 21 inmates in the same unit at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of COVID-19-positive inmates there to 57.
They say the 21 new patients are all asymptomatic for now, but they will remain locked down in the unit they are housed in. Six inmates from that unit with pending test results have been relocated and placed under medical observation.
"There's over 3,000 (inmates) in the jail, and the jail was not built for something like this, so it's a challenge," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in Friday night's briefing.
11 of the first inmates to test positive have been moved from the infirmary to the recovery unit, where officials say they will remain until they no longer have symptoms. Two have been transported to area hospitals. There is only room for 38 inmates in the infirmary.
Wolff said Friday that everyone is wearing masks now, and he talked about a new plan to test all inmates and staff.
"We're working on a plan now to try and test everyone in the jail, whether they have symptoms or don't have the symptoms," Wolff said. "That would have to be phased in over a period of time."
He indicated that testing those with symptoms would be more important, noting that someone with a cough can easily spread the virus by projecting respiratory droplets, making them more dangerous than an asymptomatic carrier.
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said his department is working on a plan to help with testing.
"We are doing a site assessment of the jail today to figure out how our mobile integrated healthcare paramedics can go in and assist on some of the testing," Hood said.
Judge Wolff said that one of the problems at the jail is that 200 inmates who they would usually be able to send to prison have not been able to go.
"I don't know what's going on in the prison system, all I know is they're having a lot of trouble and it's backing up on us and causing us more trouble in our jail," Wolff said.