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Charlie L. Harper III

The officer did not return to the Del Valle facility until testing negative for COVID-19. (Charlie L. Harper III)

A Travis County correctional officer has returned to work after recovering from COVID-19, officials said Monday.

The officer tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus in mid-March after experiencing symptoms upon returning from a trip to Europe, said Kristen Dark of the Travis County Sheriff's Office.


The officer, who is not being identified for privacy reasons, was later cleared by a physician and returned to work on Friday, she said.

Even before taking the test, Dark said, the officer self-quarantined and did not return to the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle until after follow-up tests showed a negative result.

As a result, no one at the sheriff's office or jail was exposed, she said.

"TCSO commends this officer for taking early symptoms and international travel seriously," Dark said.

The news comes as Travis County jail officials grapple with a new recommendation, issued over the weekend by local health officials, that everyone covers their faces when they're out in public.

Austin Public Health stopped short of making it a requirement, but jail officials want to follow the recommendations if possible, Dark said.

Supply and security concerns must be addressed before deciding on a mask policy for the 1,635 inmates and nearly 1,000 workers, she said.

"What we allow our employees to do, we also want to keep in mind that the inmates have the right to that type of health security as well," she said. "That's a lot of people."

It's the most recent move in the vigorous effort by prosecutors, jail officials, and judges to keep the highly contagious virus out of the Travis County jail system.

As of Monday, no county inmates had tested positive for the illness, although 19 remained in quarantine and 162 in isolation as a precaution, Dark said.

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