HOUSTON (KIAH) — With an increase in COVID-19 cases reported around Harris County, southeast Texas, the state and the nation, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is taking a big step to stop the spread inside the jail system.

Beginning on Tuesday, all in-person jail visitations has been suspended until further notice. This decision is all in hopes of minimizing the potential spread of COVID-19, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

According to the sheriff’s office, the measure is being put into effect to protect the community and those inside the Harris County Jail, including detention officers, medical personnel, support staff, and those entrusted into the sheriff’s office custody.

There are two exceptions. Attorney-client interviews and other essential visits will not be affected. Family and friends can continue to communicate with their loved ones through calls and video visitations. A free calling program will be temporarily implemented for the jail facilities, offering each inmate two free calls per week.

This new visitation plan is being coordinated with the Houston Health Department and follows the guidance of public health officials, to ensure the publics safety, including the well-being of those working and residing inside the state’s largest jail.

According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sheriff’s Office employees have worked diligently to maintain a high level of public service and care, implementing necessary public health measures and aggressive testing. Although we understand the desire to visit with loved ones in person, the health of staff, those in our custody, and our community is our top priority.”

For more information about inmate calls and video visitations, or to set up an account with Securus, an inmate calling service, call 1-800-844-6591 or visit the Jail Inmate Visitation page on their website.