What officials want done after dozens test positive for COVID-19 at Harris Co. Jail

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- At the opening of a new coronavirus testing location on Houston's south side Monday, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee pushed for mass testing of inmates in the Harris County Jail.

"I wanted to hold up the letter that I am sending to the county, the Harris County Jail, and to the sheriff, asking for immediate implementation of massive testing in the jail, indicating the funding that is available for them," announced Lee.

Lee cited the jail outbreak in Chicago. So many Cook County, Illinois inmates have positive tests or symptoms needing quarantine that the sheriff there built tent cities to house symptomatic inmates.

"That cannot happen here," said Lee.

The long-time lawmaker announced her intentions while opening the testing site at Cullen Middle School at 6900 Scott St., where testing began at noon on Monday.

Over the weekend, the jail went from five inmates with cases to 25. Forty-nine jail employees have also tested positive, so far.

RELATED: 49 Harris Co. jail workers and 25 inmates now with COVID-19

The sheriff said dozens of other inmates are sick and still waiting on test results.

More than 1,000 people at the jail may have been exposed and are being observed.

"With all the work that the county and the city leaders have taken, we must work together," said Lee. "This is no one's fault, but it must be done expeditiously."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and county judge Lina Hidalgo have argued for inmate release, but not everyone agrees.

READ MORE: HPD and other chiefs slam judges for releasing violent inmates during pandemic

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