2 Texas correctional officers die from possible COVID-19 complications

FILE PHOTO - Coronavirus testing tubes
FILE PHOTO - Coronavirus testing tubes (AP)

HOUSTON – The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Saturday the deaths of two employees that may be related to coronavirus. The department identified correction officers: Maria Mendez of the Wynne Unit in Huntsville and Jesse Bolton at the Eastham Unit in Houston County.

According to the department, Mende, 59, was hospitalized on April 12. She reportedly was experiencing shortness of breath, a cough, and a slight fever after working.

On April 15, Mendez was transferred to Methodist Hospital in Houston where she was placed on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit. She died Saturday morning after testing positive for COVID-19 in April.

Mendez served 11 years with the department.

The cause of death for Bolton, 62, remains under investigation, according to the department.

On May 6, Bolton began experiencing stroke-like symptoms and was taken the Huntsville Memorial Hospital, according to the department. He was tested for COVID-19 and the test returned negative.

Bolton was transferred to Conroe Regional Hospital and placed on life support. He died Friday at 4 p.m., according to the department. A second COVID-19 test returned positive.

Bolton spent 12 years with the department.

“Even in these unprecedented times there are moments that are especially jarring,” said Bryan Collier TDCJ Executive Director. “Losing any employee is difficult but learning of two deaths in a single day is unthinkable. The thoughts and prayers of the entire agency are with all the family and friends of both Officers Menendez and Bolton.”

According to the department, a total of seven TDCJ employee deaths that have a preliminary cause of COVID-19. There have also been 27 offender deaths with a preliminary COVID-19 cause and an additional 17 offender deaths that are under investigation and pending preliminary autopsy results.

TDCJ has more than 580 employees, staff or contractors who have tested positive for COVID-19. While nearly 1500 inmates have also tested positive. The department reports that 82 employees and 371 offenders have medically recovered.

More than 20,000 inmates are on medical restrictions due to possible coronavirus exposure.

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