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Thomas County Sheriff’s Office taking extra precautions to keep inmates, staff at Thomas County Jail safe from Omicron surge

Despite COVID cases and surge concerns across the country, one Georgia jail says they’ve been...
Despite COVID cases and surge concerns across the country, one Georgia jail says they’ve been avoiding major outbreaks throughout the pandemic.(Jaclyn Harold | WCTV)
Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 5:35 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Despite COVID cases and surge concerns across the country, one Georgia jail says they’ve been avoiding major outbreaks throughout the pandemic.

The Thomas County Sheriff’s Office says several months ago it had its first COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began. Out of 200 inmates, there were 41 positive tests.

Now, as the Omicron variant brings about concerns, officials say they’re still confident with their precautions.

Safety protocols, cleaning and vaccinated inmates is what Captain Steve Jones says he believes has helped keep COVID out of the jail. He says they’re watching Omicron carefully in the event precautions need to be ramped up.

Eight months ago, the COVID vaccine made its way to Thomas County inmates, a precaution officials say was used to help protect them from catching the virus. Capt. Jones says it’s worked pretty well.

“We did really well from the beginning of the pandemic in keeping COVID out,” he said. “We went almost 16 moths before we had an outbreak.”

With strict precautions including constant cleaning, a mask requirement and how the jail handles those who are sick, Capt. Jones says he believes that also plays a role in keeping COVID cases outside from coming in.

“We quarantine anybody who was positive. We quarantine anybody who was around the positives. So, I had two separate quarantine areas and we started testing everyone in the jail,” he explained.

Officials say new inmates are tested and then kept in a holding pod for about seven days before being able to enter general population. Visitation doesn’t allow contact, but outsiders are required to wear masks upon entry.

Despite the concerns surrounding the highly transmissible Omicron variant and the potential of another surge in cases following holiday travel and gatherings, Capt. Jones says he feels good about the precautions they’re taking, but he’s still keeping an eye on the community.

“We don’t know in the public who’s been properly vaccinated, who hasn’t been properly vaccinated. So, we just can’t take a chance. We can’t take a chance on that one case getting in that gets to that one person, that one inmate that has a severe case,” he said.

Capt. Jones says when they did have the outbreak, none of the inmates had to be hospitalized and only a few showed signs of illness.

Officials say the health department comes every two to three weeks to provide vaccines.

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