Tia Lynn Ivey
Four inmates at the Morgan County jail have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the potentially lethal upper-respiratory disease. According to Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley, all four of the inmates are asymptomatic and passed the point in which quarantine is required.
According to Markley, the National Guard Strike Team came to Morgan County jail to offer coronavirus tests to all inmates and staff who wanted it. Markley said 33 inmates were tested and four tested positive. Zero staff members tested positive for COVID-19. It took 11 days to receive back test results, due to high volume of tests being conducted across the state.
“This testing was offered to all sheriff offices across the State of Georgia. We were one of the first facilities that took them up on the offer to get testing done,” explained Markley. “Then they became overrun with requests, which is why the delay of results took 11 days.”
Markley is committed to following all guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“All staff and inmates are provided with masks and we are doing social distancing as much as possible,” said Markley, who noted the jail currently houses 71 inmates. All new inmates have their temperatures taken and must see the nurse or doctor and wait a longer period of time before entering the jail general population, explained Markley.
According to Markley the current jail, which opened in 2010, is a far better facility to handle the risks of the coronavirus pandemic than the old jail, which was a smaller and outdated facility built in 1954.
“I can’t imagine having to deal with this in the old jail,” said Markley. “Our jail now has five pods and a booking room with individual cells that made social distancing more realistic. It would have been impossible to social distance at the old jail. This is a much better situation for the staff, the inmates, and ultimately, the public.” Markley also noted that the new jail includes four medical cells with negative pressure.
“The air only passes through one time, so when an officer opens the door, he doesn’t get hit with any contagions that could have been there,” explained Markley.
Markley noted that county police and the county jail have had to adjust to new coronavirus pandemic mitigation procedures to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
“The truth is we are like everybody else in this,” said Markley. “We are working our way through these issues and addressing issues as they come up. We have strong policies in place and are changing the way do business to try to prevent it from not only spreading in our facility, but from spreading in the community.”