With new cases of COVID-19 in Anderson County appearing to level off last week, Judge Robert Johnston said he wasn't sure if another drive-through testing site was needed.
On Wednesday, however, with seven new COVID cases pushing the county's total to 85, and an explosion of confirmed cases at a local prison, Johnston said he was would set up another testing site, tentatively scheduled for Sunday, June 14 at the downtown Courthouse Annex.
“Siding with caution, I want everyone who has symptoms to have the opportunity to be tested,” Johnston told the Herald-Press Wednesday. Anderson County has conducted more than 1,000 COVID-19 tests, a far higher rate than the statewide average.
Johnston said he was especially concerned about the high number of active COVID-19 cases at the Michael Unit, four miles south of Tennessee Colony.
On Wednesday, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported 373 active cases of COVID-19 at the Michael prison. TDCJ reported 40 active employee cases there.
“It's blowing up at the Michael Unit,” Johnston said. “I'm very concerned.”
Most of Anderson County's cases have come from the county's five state prisons.
Statewide, at least 40 state inmates have died from confirmed cases of COVID-19, with another 28 under investigation. Seven prison employees also have died from COVID-19.
The Beto Unit, once a COVID-19 hot spot, reported 53 active prisoner cases on Wednesday, with another 162 recovered. Beto reported 28 active employee cases.
Four of the county's new cases on Wednesday, including the county's first positive test of someone older than 80, resulted from mass testing at local nursing homes last week. The other three confirmed cases came from prison employees.
The county's seven new confirmed cases Wednesday were the largest single-day increase since the county reported its first confirmed case on March 31.
Previously, the highest single-day count locally was the six confirmed cases reported last week on Thursday.
Forty-six of the county's 85 cases – more than half – have already recovered. Anderson County still has no confirmed deaths from COVID-19, outside of the prison system.
Throughout the state prison system, 62,937 inmates and 20,180 employees have been tested, with 6,398 inmates and 952 employees testing positive for the coronavirus.
Texas state prisons hold 140,000 inmates and employs more than 30,000 people.