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38 Harris County Sheriff's Office employees test positive for COVID-19; 2 hospitalized

One sheriff's deputy is hospitalized in critical condition, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says.
Credit: HCSO

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The number of Harris County Sheriff's Office employees who have contracted the coronavirus climbed to 38 confirmed cases Thursday, according to officials.

Of these cases, two employees have been hospitalized with the virus, including a deputy who has been in critical condition for several days.

Most of the confirmed cases are jail employees; the sheriff's office said 29 of the infected are jail staffers. 

HCSO reported April 3 a sheriff's deputy and a detention officer had tested positive.  

Both employees had been working at the Harris County Jail at 12000 Baker Street. HCSO said the detention officer is a woman in her late 30s and the deputy is a woman in her late 40s. In total, five employees at the facility have tested positive.

At last report, the sheriff's office was awaiting coronavirus test results for 77 employees.

At this time, HCSO reports 219 employees are in quarantine for possible COVID-19 exposure. That includes deputies, detention officers and support staff. 

Officials said 88 quarantined employees have been cleared to return to work.

HCSO is working with Harris County Public Health to identify co-workers, inmates and members of the public who may have had close contact with the diagnosed employees so they can take necessary precautions, including quarantine and testing for those with symptoms.

The announcement comes shortly after Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez was ordered to stop releasing nonviolent inmates from the prison

HCSO had already released its first group of inmates to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the jails, but some lawmakers are concerned the releases could present a danger to the public.

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Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Some patients also have nausea, body aches, headaches and stomach issues. Losing your sense of taste and/or smell can also be an early warning sign.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
  • Follow social distancing

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

Get complete coverage of the coronavirus by texting 'FACTS' to 713-526-1111.

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