Though officials have worked to reduce the number of inmates and active coronavirus cases inside of the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, both are on the rise as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

On Tuesday, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office reported 82 active cases of the novel coronavirus among inmates. Though that number is significantly lower than the jail’s peak, it follows a steady upward trend since mid-June.

The number of people incarcerated in the jail has also been on the rise since May. On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office reported 3,677 inmates. The population has been increasing not only due to the natural ebb and flow of how many people are incarcerated during the year – summer months often see more inmates than other times of the year – but the jail still holds hundreds of people waiting to be transferred to the state correctional system, as well as a handful destined for alternative places.

“We have 401 total inmates pending transfer,” spokeswoman Adelina Simpson said in an email Friday. “388 from the 401 are specifically awaiting [Texas Department of Criminal Justice] transfer. All others have been sentenced to other specified facilities and are awaiting transfer.”

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the sheriff’s office has been struggling to get inmates who are paper-ready for state prison out of the county jail. According to Simpson, TDCJ has started to accept some inmates, “but it has been very few.” TDCJ stopped accepting inmate transfers from county jails in April, but restarted the process in June. And Texas prisons have seen higher coronavirus case numbers than any other state, the Texas Tribune reported on July 14.

On Tuesday, 82 inmates had tested positive for coronavirus at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center. That’s just over 2 percent of the inmate population; since the end of May, less than 3 percent of the inmate population had active coronavirus cases, according to data provided by the sheriff’s office.

On July 13, Salazar told reporters he was pleased with how little of the jail population tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I’m crediting the fact that we’ve maintained our cleanliness standards,” he said. “Matter of fact, we’ve increased them. We were doing twice a day cleanings in the common areas of the jail, but we’ve since moved that up to three times a day. And additionally, we’re still doing daily mask exchanges for 100 percent of our inmates, and we’re still mandating masks by all of our deputies in the facility.”

Many of the coronavirus-positive inmates are asymptomatic. Salazar said on July 13 that 48 of the 70 inmates with coronavirus did not have symptoms. 

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The jail reported its first inmate case of coronavirus on April 1. The number continued to increase, hitting a peak of 298 active cases within the inmate population on May 18. But the number of coronavirus cases found among the Bexar County jail population each day was already starting to “level off” then, according to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar. 

“We knew [the number of positive COVID-19 cases] was going to go up quickly at the beginning because we front-loaded – we tested what we consider to be hotspots,” Salazar said on May 6. “And so while our numbers the first couple of days were going up really, really quick, it’s starting to level off.”

After mass testing efforts, the Bexar County Adult Detention Center saw the number of active coronavirus cases inside the jail dip dramatically from triple digits to 20 cases total on June 12. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said during his Tuesday State of the County address that the previous prevention of coronavirus spread at the jail could largely be credited toward keeping the inmate population low.

“We had a pretty large outbreak,” Wolff said. “And then we put in place where when somebody comes into the jail, we test them now. We’ve got it down.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is a general assignment reporter at the San Antonio Report.