Sheriffs in East Ala. implement changes to prevent spread of COVID-19

Sheriffs in East Ala. implement changes to prevent spread of COVID-19

RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WTVM) - With a corrections officer in Lee County and a Tallapoosa County deputy testing postive for COVID-19, some sheriffs in East Alabama are making major changes to their daily operations to try and prevent this from happening to one of their employees or inmates.

“We certainly are not business as usual,” Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said.

Taylor and other officials said they’re taking special precautions to keep their employees safe and healthy.

“We’re doing our absolute best to still provide a service,” he said. “We can’t just go home. We have to provide the service to the public.”

According to Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart, they’re limiting the calls they respond to in person. Instead, they’re taking most non-violent and non-felony reports over the phone. He said they’re giving employees personal protective equipment (PPE) and taking employees temperatures at the start of every day.

“The less contact with the public is better off,” Lockhart said.

Taylor in Russell County said they’re changing shifts to seven days on and seven days off, closing the office aside from appointments, and deputies are responding to calls with masks and gloves.

Both sheriffs said they’re also trying to avoid pulling people over for traffic violations.

“Now, if you run a red light in front of somebody or you’re going 100 mph down 431 and we see you, obviously we’re going to pull you over,” Taylor said. “But the average tag stuff, barely speeding, we’re just trying to limit, especially for the next two weeks."

They said all these changes are to keep employees safe because even a handful of illnesses could make a huge impact on the entire sheriff’s department.

“It could have a serious impact on our line of duty everyday,” Lockhart said. “When you have a limited amount of deputies, it’s tough when just one of them is out. But when you have several on a shift, it would be a burden.”

As of Wednesday evening, officials said there were no cases of COVID-19 for any inmates or sheriff’s office employees in Barbour, Russell, or Chambers counties.

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