A Brazos County jail inmate who was in isolation after contracting coronavirus was taken to the courthouse on Monday and Tuesday for a jury trial.
Sheriff Chris Kirk tells WTAW News “I certainly regret that this has taken place. It was failing on our part in sharing information between the transport division and the housing decisions that were made. I can assure everyone that is interested that we are fixing that problem and it will not happen again.”
Kirk says the deputies who transported the inmate were not aware that the inmate was still in isolation after testing positive.
Kirk says he has asked the county’s risk management department to help with the contract tracing of those in the courtroom and others who may have been near the inmate.
The sheriff says personal protective equipment was used by the inmate and the deputies involved in the transport. Social distancing was practiced while in the courthouse and the inmate was masked.
Kirk says the inmate was symptomatic on August 8 and was tested and placed in quarantine. On August 11, the inmate was placed in isolation after receiving a positive test result. Monday morning (August 17), the inmate no longer had a fever and was not displaying any other symptoms.
On Tuesday, deputies transported a second inmate who Kirk says was in the general jail population. The sheriff says both inmates have been tested since their visits to the courthouse.
According to courthouse sources, one trial was declared a mistrial and the second was recessed until a date to be determined. That was after the trial judges contacted the state office of court administration and local health authorities.
Click below for comments from Chris Kirk, visiting with WTAW’s Bill Oliver:
News release from the Brazos County sheriff’s office:
On the evening of August 18, 2020, Brazos County Detention personnel determined that an inmate, who had previously tested positive for COVID 19, had been transported to the Courthouse on August 17th and 18th. Upon realizing this had occurred, the Sheriff’s Office immediately notified the Judge of the Court. Additionally, on the 18th a second inmate had been transported to the Courthouse with the COVID 19 positive inmate. In accordance with our established procedures, the deputy and inmates were wearing personal protective equipment.
The COVID 19 positive inmate was symptomatic on August 8th and was, in accordance with our protocols, tested and placed into quarantine. A positive test result was received on August 11th, which precipitated the inmate being placed in isolation and provided appropriate medical care. As of the morning of the 17th, the inmate no longer had a fever, nor were they displaying any other symptoms of COVID 19.
The Sheriff’s Office staff received a court docket notification that included this inmate with a court date of August 17th. Due to a ‘break down’ in internal communications, the inmate was mistakenly transported to court on Monday and Tuesday without notification to the court. As a result of this error, Detention Center personnel have implemented additional procedures to improve communications that will inform transport personnel and courts in advance if an inmate has previously tested positive for COVID 19.
Sheriff’s Office personnel continue to follow our already established infectious disease protocols, to include medical isolation and the use of personal protective equipment. Further, our personnel will continue to follow our response plan and take safety precautions for the duration of the pandemic. The Brazos County Health District has been notified of this potential exposure.
“I regret that our internal process for tracking and sharing information failed to provide transport deputies with critical information. They were unaware the defendant had previously tested positive for COVID 19. We have implemented additional procedures to improve communication and prevent a re-occurrence. We are working diligently to manage COVID 19 at the Detention Center. Our response to the pandemic is based on CDC guidelines and correctional best practices that are constantly evolving. We will continue to evaluate and implement new procedures to reduce potential exposures. The safety of our staff, the inmates placed in our custody and the community are our highest priorities.” Sheriff Chris Kirk.