FEAR INSIDE AND OUT: Anderson County officials look to protect community as COVID-19 cases rise inside Beto prison

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PALESTINE, Texas (KETK) – Prison inmates across Texas continue to test positive for COVID-19 and now people’s concern outside of prison walls is growing.

Palestine officials are working to slow the spread as the Beto Unit is now considered a “hot spot” for the virus.

“We are going to be proactive in trying to protect our community and reduce the risk for COVID,” said Leslie Cloer, the Palestine city manager, during a digital town hall.

The Palestine Mayor Steve Presley and the Anderson County COVID-19 Task-force held the meeting to discuss how to stop the spread of the virus.

“Our numbers are going up, so just because Governor Abbott is allowing us to return to normal, doesn’t mean that we’re in the clear,” said Dr. Jose Tovar, with Palestine Family Medicine.

Testing was a major concern discussed.

An anonymous staff member in an outpatient facility in Palestine, told KETK News, “One patient was referred to PRMC for two significant presenting symptoms. The patient was refused a COVID-19 test and discharged from emergency room with instructions to assume they are COVID positive and to self-isolate.”

A second patient, with three or more presenting symptoms, was told that they would need to be sent to Tyler for testing. After involving other physicians in this situation, a test was finally performed.

“If testing is not offered in Palestine to the extremely vulnerable, community risk is extremely high. Many patients do not have the means by which to travel to Tyler for a test. We have a significant risk with the proximity of the Beto unit for community spread, including family members of medically fragile and immunocompromised employed with the prison system. If these patients aren’t getting tested, I can’t imagine that anyone is,” said the staff member.

Doctors in the area assured the public tests are still available despite the concern.

“We talk daily about transfers, and RMS, we know how many are going from the prison to other areas,” said Roy Finch, CEO of Palestine Regional Medical.

Inmates inside the Beto Unit who test positive for COVID-19 are being sent to hospitals outside of Anderson County, closer to medical facilities to strictly treat infected prisoners. In a continued effort to reduce the risk of infection in the community.

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