- What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, is an upper respiratory tract disease caused by one of the seven coronaviruses known to infect humans. It was first identified in humans in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. The virus that causes COVID-19 is also called SARS-CoV-2.
- Who is at risk?
People who recently traveled to affected geographic areas, people in close contact with people who have COVID-19, people who care for patients with COVID-19, and people in areas that have experienced community spread are at elevated risk. People 65 years or older, and/or people with medical issues, like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, or a weakened immune system, are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID 19.
- What are the symptoms?
Symptoms, which generally appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Most people who become sick do not require hospitalization.
- How does it spread?
The virus is known to spread person to person when there is close contact (approximately 6 feet) through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is also believed that a person can become infected with COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own nose, eyes or mouth.
- What can I do to prevent it?
There are no vaccines to prevent COVID-19.
People are encouraged to take a number of measures.
- Practice handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is unavailable, hand sanitizer may be used to cleanse hands.
- Use cough etiquette by covering coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Otherwise, cough inside of your elbow.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact (< 6 feet) with people who are sick or suspected of being sick.
- Stop handshakes.
- Practice social distancing and avoid gatherings and meetings.
- Disinfect common areas and surfaces that are often touched with a 10% bleach solution.
- Cancel all group activities.
- Should I wear a face mask?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the use of face masks by people who are not sick is not recommended to protect against respiratory diseases. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent spread of the disease and by health care workers and others taking care of someone in a close setting.
- What is "Close Contact"?
An individual is considered a close contact if they have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time, or have had direct contact with respiratory droplets produced when a COVID-19 case coughs or sneezes.
- Who is allowed to enter your facilities?
Governor Abbott suspended visitation to our 104 prison units on March 13, 2020. That includes personal visitation, media and attorney visits. The suspension will continue until lifted by the Governor.
- How can we keep in touch with our loved ones?
The Offender Telephone System (OTS) is now operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Offenders are being escorted to phones when they are available even after traditional hours. Each offender is receiving 2 free 15-minute calls a week which reset every Tuesday. Disciplinary restrictions have been suspended. Offenders who do not have access to the OTS are being escorted to hardline phones in the units to make calls.
- What about education and other programming?
Windham School District employees are offering distance learning only as are other education partners. There are in-cell packets being prepared and distributed for a number of programs.
- How are intake offenders being screened?
The intake of new offenders entering the TDCJ system from county jails cannot stop. We are screening all intake offenders at our 24 intake facilities with a questionnaire and temperature check. If someone has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher or symptoms of cough or shortness of breath, a mask is placed on him or her. The offender is then escorted to the unit medical department for further evaluation by a clinician. A disposition is then made for the offender that may include medical restriction if a COVID-19 test is being ordered.
- What is Confirmed vs. Suspected COVID-19 case?
According to the CDC a confirmed case has received a positive result from a COVID-19 laboratory test, with or without symptoms. A suspected case shows symptoms of COVID-19 but either has not been tested or is awaiting test results. If test results are positive, a suspected case becomes a confirmed case.
- What is "Medical Isolation"?
Medical isolation is for people who are sick and contagious. Isolation is used to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy. Isolation restricts the movement of ill persons to help stop the spread of disease.
- What is "Social Distancing"?
Social distancing is the practice of increasing the space between individuals (ideally to maintain at least 6 feet between all individuals, even those without symptoms) and decreasing the frequency of contact to reduce the risk of spreading a disease. Social distancing strategies can be applied on an individual level (e.g., avoiding physical contact and maintaining 6 feet), a group level (e.g., canceling group activities), and an operational level (e.g., rearranging chairs in clinics to increase distance between them).
- What is "Medical Restriction"?
Medical restriction is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms. Medical restriction can help limit the spread of disease.
- What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
PPE consists of mask, gowns, eye protection and gloves. According to the CDC there are situations where a mask is the only form of PPE that is necessary.