45 COVID cases in Medina County; spike caused by outbreak at two Medina County prison facilities

Medina County reported its 21st case of COVID-19 this past Thursday, May 7, days before the outbreak at 2 local prisons began resulting in a large spike. The county had 36 total positive cases as of Monday, with 17 being active (4 in community, 13 in prison), 2 deaths, and 1 resident is still hospitalized.

Since then, as we go to press on Tuesday, May 12, Medina County has announced that they now have 45 positive COVID cases.

The 21st case is in the LaCoste area (78039 zip code). This case acquired the virus through close contact and is isolating at home.

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Medina County Prisons outbreak

A total of 21 Prison inmates have tested positive at the TDCJ Ney and Torres facilities outside Hondo. In addition, two staff members at the prison have also tested positive, (one is a correctional officer and one works in the laundry dept).

Medina County Health Unit Director, Patricia Mechler, stated, “I do anticipate those numbers [of positive cases in the prison] to continue to go up as test results continue to come in.”

On the charts they release, the county will keep a running total of prison inmates who test positive separately from the general public to avoid confusion.

“The Ney and Torres TDJC facilities are located on the same property, but they have completely different staff,” Judge Chris Schuchart.

“The way we communicate with the prison is through their medical doctors, not the people who are actually on site,” Mechler said. “The confirmed cases of prisoners are in isolation there at the facility.”

Judge Schuchart assured the community that Sheriff Brown has been taking temperatures at the Medina County Jail on a regular basis for many weeks, in an effort to prevent this from happening at our county jail.

Outbreaks at correctional facilities have been seen in many places during this pandemic, including nearby Frio County (see separate article).

Community testing

In Medina County clinics and hospital, a total of 134 people have been tested for COVID-19, and the county is waiting on 11 new results to come in as of this Monday, May 11.

Forty-three people took advantage of the free drive-up testing facility held at the Medina County Fairgrounds in Hondo this past Saturday. The previous weekend, 63 people were tested at Devine Volunteer Fire Station, and all but 2 came back negative, with the other two being “indeterminate.”

“We are doing one more round of testing in the Castroville area this Saturday to round out our free drive-up testing,” stated Emergency Manager Keith Lutz.

It will be held at the Medina County Annex at 8366 FM 471 S. in Castroville from 9am-5pm. It is free, but you must register by calling the following number 512-883-2400. REGISTRATION begins THURSDAY MORNING. See notice on page 2 for details.

Next couple weeks will be critical in tracking safety of re-opening

When asked what time frame we can expect to really see if how the re-opening is affecting rates of infection, Health Director Mechler adds, “I think we can look at the next two weeks as a guideline, but we know tests will still be coming in a little later than that.”

“I know Mother’s Day was a hard weekend for everyone to get through and do the right thing in order to protect our higher-risk population,” Mechler added. “It’s still their best bet to stay home.”

In fact, she emphasizes that staying home and avoiding large groups is a good idea for everyone to continue doing as much as possible.

“It’s still the right thing for most people to do, until we get through these next 2-3 weeks and see where we are at,” Mechler.

Breakdown by zipcode below.

By Kayleen Holder