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Texas locking down prisons with positive coronavirus cases

There have been more than 50 employees and 47 prisoners who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In its strongest directive yet in combating the novel coronavirus, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is putting all prisons on lockdown where an employee or prisoner has tested positive for the virus.

Those lockdowns will extend for 14 days from the most recent positive test, prison officials said Wednesday.

The news comes as 56 employees or contractors and 47 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. There were also two deaths this week: a correctional officer and a prisoner.

Kelvin Wilcher, a 49-year-old officer at the Estelle Unit in Huntsville, died at a Houston hospital Monday. Wilcher was taken to the hospital after suffering a “cardiac event” on April 1, prison officials said. He later tested positive for the virus while in intensive care.

A 72-year-old prisoner from the Telford Unit near Texarkana died Tuesday in a hospital. Bartolo Infante was admitted for viral pneumonia and tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. Prison officials said he had a history of pre-existing health conditions.

The new rules mean 15 state prisons are on medical lockdown as of Wednesday: Beto, Clements, Darrington, East Texas Transfer Facility, Estelle, Goree, Jordan, Murray, Ramsey, Robertson, Smith, Stringfellow, Telford, Woodman and Wynne units.

Prisoners on medical lockdown are being confined to their cells and are receiving temperature checks twice a day.

Officers and staff at those prisons are asked to wear masks and anyone coming in contact with prisoners are asked to wear gloves and N95 masks.

There are more than 12,000 prisoners in medical restriction across TDCJ's 110 prisons.

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