Health district "definitely" concerned about Dismas halfway house cases

Posted at 5:19 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 00:10:54-04

Nueces County had its biggest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases Monday when it was reported that 13 of the 15 new cases were transmitted person-to-person at a local halfway house.

Three of the 13 novel coronavirus patients currently quarantined at Dismas Charities Inc. reportedly are STX Beef employees who previously were residents in a federal prison, said Corpus Christi-Nueces Co. Public Health District Director of Health Annette Rodriguez on Monday.

She said a total of 19 cases have come from that halfway house, located at 1023 Mestina St., including one of the facility's employees.

The patients are not allowed to leave the facility. Local officials said of the approximately 30-40 people living at the facility, only the affected residents currently are staying there.

Rodriguez told reporters on Monday that she is "definitely" concerned about the numbers at Dismas.

"We are looking at it very closely," she said. "The men and women have the same sleeping quarters. That's one of them. Also, they ate together and do everything together. They share the same restrooms. It's very concerning."

Monday's total was the highest one-day total since numbers have been released by the city and county, topping the previous single-day high total of nine.

Corpus Christi City Manager Peter Zanoni said the numbers are expected to increase again when testing is completed on employees at STX Beef. That testing began Saturday, but is expected to take several days as more than 700 people are employed by the meat processing plant, according to District 4 city councilman Greg Smith.

“We just want to be prepared that this week, we will probably see some other significant numbers as we get the results from our beef processing plant," said Zanoni.

STX Beef is considered an essential business and has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week KRIS 6 News reported seven of its employees had been diagnosed as being positive for the virus, and the plant announced it would conduct testing on all employees beginning Saturday.

Rodriguez had a simple request she said would limit future future COVID-19 infections.

"Sick people need to stay away from healthy people," she said. "Healthy people need to stay away from sick people. I know it's been tough, but the more we work together, we can protect the aggregate population."

KRIS 6 News reporter Ashley Portillo contributed to this story.