Coronavirus hits Texas prisons with first inmate case confirmed

Inmates at a correctional facility in Texas. (Jennifer Whitney for the Texas Tribune)

The first Texas prisoner has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Tuesday the 37-year-old man, who has a pre-existing respiratory condition, is being treated at Hospital Galveston, the prison system’s hospital unit, and has been there for three days. He was in TDCJ custody a little less than a month after a conviction in Harris County on two drug possession charges.

On Saturday, he was evaluated at the Lychner State Jail north of Houston after reporting shortness of breath and a cough, according to a statement from the department. He was sent to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, before being transferred to Galveston for testing of the new coronavirus. The agency said he is in good condition.

Other inmates and prison staff who may have had contact with the man are being medically restricted, limiting their movement.

“TDCJ is saddened to learn of this positive case in an offender but the agency is well prepared to handle this challenge,” said Bryan Collier, TDCJ’s executive director. “Our coronavirus protocol was developed exactly for a situation like this. Our prayers are with the offender and his family as he recovers from this illness.”

This story is developing and will be updated.