After recovering from COVID-19, Greenwood County Detention Center Administrator Maj. Lonnie Smith will return to work Monday.
Smith said he fist started feeling symptoms on the July 3 holiday, while he wasn’t at work. He developed a fever that weekend, and was tested July 6. He stayed out of work all week pending the results, which came back positive July 10.
Smith said he was grateful that his symptoms didn’t get serious.
“It felt like I had the flu the first two or three days, but then after that, mainly last week, it was sort of sinus infection-like,” Smith said.
The day after his test came back he no longer was feeling any symptoms, but stayed at home this past week according to policy that follows guidelines of not returning to work until 10-14 days after developing symptoms. He’s set to return to work Monday.
“It had been at least 48 hours before I had my symptoms that I had been around anybody at work,” he said. “And I’m rarely around the inmates directly.”
Sheriff Dennis Kelly said that’s been policy for all the departments under his administration, that any employee who develops symptoms is urged to stay at home until they can get tested and receive results. In the event of a positive test, employees are advised to stay at home at least 10 days, and they can’t return to work until three days have passed without symptoms.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep the citizens and employees safe, as well as the inmates,” Kelly said.
At the jail, Smith said when people are brought in to intake, they’re initially given a COVID-19 specific questionnaire and have their temperatures taken. Staff keeps new inmates separated from the rest of the jail’s population for the first five to seven days, to monitor them for possible symptoms.
If an inmate does develop symptoms, they’re quarantined in a similar manner — placed in a cell by themselves toward the back of a cell block, and given a separate time for recreation than other inmates while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test. So far, no inmates have tested positive for the virus, Smith said.
Everyone coming into the jail and working among others is required to wear a mask, and all employees are provided with masks, face shields, rubber gloves and hand sanitizer. Some inmates have been given masks by request, but they aren’t provided across the board. Inmates have regular access to soap, and cells are cleaned daily while recreation areas are cleaned after every use.
One detention center officer tested positive more than a month ago, as did a uniform patrol deputy, but in both cases they followed the same quarantine and recovery policy Smith did.
“We’re very cautious,” Smith said. “If someone comes in and they’re coughing or have even a low fever, we send them home. We have digital thermometers all over the detention center, and we do have 24/7 medical here.”
He said he won’t be so naive to say there’s no chance an inmate will get sick, but staff is working diligently to ensure the virus doesn’t make its way into the jail.
For other departments, Kelly said employees are provided hand sanitizer and must wear masks. Officers no longer walk in and out of the dispatch call center, to reduce the chance of spreading the virus between departments. The jail is still not accepting visitors, and officers have sanitizer and cleaning products in their patrol cars.
Officers are trying to handle calls by phone or from a distance as much as they can. Kelly said he and his staff are aware of the case numbers across the nation, and want to ensure the sheriff’s office stays safe while keeping Greenwood County safe.
Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.