The Nueces County Jail has been a coronavirus hot-spot for several weeks, with more than a hundred cases between inmates and staff.
Dozens of corrections officers are out sick, which has forced Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper to get creative, and look inside his office for help.
“A Texas sheriff’s primary responsibility is the county jail,” said Hooper.
Fifty-six corrections officers are out with positive COVID-19 tests, another 23 are out with symptoms.
“It’s all hands on deck, and we all have to come together to ensure the safety, security, and the minimal staffing mandated inside that county jail,” said Hooper.
To meet those minimum staffing levels, Hooper temporarily reassigned 38 deputies into the jail to serve as corrections officers.
“We’ve brought in patrol deputies, we’ve brought in warrant deputies, we’ve brought in detectives to help us out in that jail,” said Hooper. “During a situation like this, we are all correctional officers.”
The sheriff laid out the situation at Wednesday’s Commissioners Court meeting. He says that with so many of his deputies off the streets, he’s reached out to other local law enforcement agencies for help.
“I’ve asked them to be prepared to step up and answer calls for service that they might not normally answer,”? Said Hooper. “They all assured me that they are willing and able to help us.”
But now that the virus is inside the jail, Hooper feels there’s no way to get it out. The only thing he and his staff can do is keep everyone as safe as possible.
“Every other jail in the state has already gone through what we’re going through now,” said Hooper. “They experienced it a month, or two, or three months ago, we’re getting our licks now.”
There is good news for the sheriff’s office. Hooper says 13 corrections officers who tested positive have recovered and will likely return to work Friday.
Sheriff Hooper says because the county sent 44 inmates to the state prison in Beeville, crews are able to come in and rotate deep cleanings around the jail.