COVID-19 safety concerns sheriff

Published 3:15 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

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Lowndes County Sheriff Chris West asked the Lowndes County Commission for help in the form of hazard pay for employees Tuesday and got it, but he’s still concerned for the safety of the deputies and others who help keep the county safe.

West said officers have been dealing with yard parties and other gatherings that put people and deputies in danger.

“The sad part of it is that a lot of people out there are infected and they know they are infected,” West said Tuesday afternoon, hours after the hazard pay was approved. “I don’t know what the answer is to it.”

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West said there are also strict policies at the John C. Hulett Detention Center.

“When they come up into the facility for a serious crime and we have to make an arrest right then, or we have a warrant, a lot of those people are infected,” West said. “We’ve got a process. We’ve got to get them in the jail and go through a booking process. We’ve got an isolation area that we’ve designated to isolate them from the rest of the population. So far, we haven’t had any documented cases. We’ve set up a protocol in case we do have someone come in.”

West said when bringing someone in, deputies or police officers bring prisoners to be processed in the sally port area. Incoming arrestees are then quarantined for 48 hours prior to being placed into the general population.

“We’ve got to have this stuff in place,” West said. “If we start having inmates get sick it will run our medical bills up.”

West said since the county had its first death, be need to be cognizant of COVID-19.

“I’m concerned for our senior citizens,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors in our county that have bad health issues. We’re a predominantly African-American community and we know we have a high diabetic rate, high kidney disease rate, and high heart disease rate. When you combine that with a pandemic like COVID-19, it can be fatal. We can’t get people to understand. When you’re out there doing all this, you’re just like a loaded gun walking around shooting at random. Every time you talk or cough it’s like shooting off a gun at random.”

Though deputies are still seeing many parties, West said stores in Lowndes County are doing well observing social distancing.

“They’ve done good,” West concluded. “They’ve taped off areas to let people know what’s six feet at checkout. We’re seeing more and more people wear facial protection whether it’s homemade or N-95 masks. We’re glad to see that. It’s good. More people are showing personal responsibility. If we can see that increase and see a decrease parties and stuff, I think things will balance out for us. If they increase these parties these bonfires during this pandemic it’s only going to make things worse for everybody in Lowndes County.”