Massive coronavirus outbreak at Texas federal prison racks up county total to nearly 4,000

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A coronavirus outbreak at a federal prison resulted in 423 new cases on Sunday and the highest single-day record in the North Texas county where the facility is located.

Tarrant County is home to the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Fort Worth, a facility comprised of male inmates with specific medical and mental health needs.

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The new cases, as well as others, bumped up Tarrant County’s total to 3,695 cases as of Sunday. Richard Hill, Tarrant County Public Health spokesman, said the county is aware of 636 coronavirus cases at FMC Fort Worth, but only recorded 477 in its database until hearing from further reports, one outlet said.

A coronavirus outbreak at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth, resulted in 423 cases and five deaths, as of Sunday. (Photo via Google Maps).

The death of inmate Guadalupe Ramos on Sunday marked the fifth death at FMC Fort Worth. Ramos was serving a sentence for distributing 1 kilogram or more of heroin. Veronica Chavez, Ramos’ niece, had been fighting for his release due to multiple preexisting health conditions, an outlet reported. The prison did not communicate Ramos’ diagnosis, Chavez said.

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“I know my uncle committed a crime, and he served nine years for it,” Chavez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But when he signed for his sentence, nowhere did it say he would be signing a death sentence.”

The new figures reflect a sharp increase in cases since April 29, when the Bureau of Prisons reported 298 inmates tested positive for the virus, one news outlet reported.

The Dallas Morning News noted the figures place FMC Fort Worth as the “third-highest among the 11,260 facilities in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system.” FMC Fort Worth reportedly ranks just below two prisons in Southern California.

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A corrections officer, Gregory Watts, told the outlet “anxiety is high among the staff and inmates.” He wasn’t surprised by the spread of disease due to difficulty in separating inmates.

Out-of-sync accounting for cases between agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Prisons and FMC Fort Worth, is common due to lags in reporting, the Dallas Morning News reported.