Texas County Reports Nearly 90 Percent of New Coronavirus Cases From Outbreak at Federal Prison

Health officials in Tarrant County, Texas on Sunday announced 485 new coronavirus cases, with nearly 90 percent of that figure coming from a large outbreak at a federal prison.

Of the 485 confirmed cases, 423 were associated with the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth prison, county officials said. The facility now has a total of 627 confirmed cases out of roughly 1,463 inmates, making it the prison with the third-highest number of infections at a U.S. federal facility. There are now at least five deaths caused by the novel virus at the location.

Guadalupe Ramos, a 56-year-old inmate at the facility, died from COVID-19 Sunday after testing positive on April 23. One day after he had been tested, Ramos "was seen by FMC Fort Worth Health Services staff for abdominal pain and shortness of breath," before he was placed on a ventilator on April 28.

Federal officials said the deceased inmate had pre-existing conditions that rendered him vulnerable to the novel virus. At the time of his death, Ramos was serving a 17.5-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute a large quantity of heroin. He had been placed in custody at the Fort Worth location since September 2017.

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People wearing protective masks leave the Cook County jail complex on April 09, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty

Inmate James Holley is also among the hundreds held inside Fort Worth Federal Medical Center that have been tested positive. His daughter Melody Meza told WFAA last week that her "biggest fear is losing my father just due to the fact that he's not sentenced there to die."

"They've been packed in, crammed into units like sardines he compared it to," Meza added. "It could be one day, today, he's ok and the next day he's gone."

Jovanni Guerrero said his father, an inmate who has been hospitalized after contracting the virus, was placed on a ventilator for four days before the family were made aware of his condition. "If it was any other place, people would be worrying about it so much," Guerrero told WFAA. "It's very confusing and it's very disappointing that they're not able to give us any updates on this."

As cases in the facility continue to rise, Guerrero and other family members of inmates have complained about the lack of transparency and communication. They have also called for all guards and prison staffers to be tested for coronavirus to limit the outbreak. Federal officials say they do not closely monitor employee testing but do enforce mask use and regular temperature checks.

Newsweek reached out to the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth for comment. This story will be updated with any response.