Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
As many inmates being held in the Macon County Detention Center were scheduled to appear in Superior Court this week, Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland announced that due to a substantial COVID19 outbreak within the jail, those cases would have to be handled differently.
Last week, Sheriff Holland reported that all inmate visitations had been suspended due to multiple cases of Covid being confirmed within the detention center. According to Holland, the decision was made in the best interest of staff and inmates and was done as a precautionary measure. Jail officials are reportedly working with the local health department as well as the detention center physician and nurse to have all inmates and all detention officers tested. The testing within the detention center was voluntary and all but two inmates agreed to be tested for Covid.
Holland reported that as of Sept. 12, 82 of the 83 tests that were conducted had been returned. A total of 58 negative tests were recorded and 24 tests came up positive for Covid19. All 24 positive results were of male inmates and are in the dormitory section of the jail facility.
“We currently have no positive cases in the female dorm,” said Sheriff Holland. “All MCSO detention officers tests resulted in negative for Covid19. Although negative, we will continue to monitor all employees and inmates as we have done throughout this pandemic and conduct additional tests when appropriate. In addition to this week’s testing, we conducted ‘rapid tests’ for additional officers who reported for work this weekend and all those tests were returned negative for Covid19.”
With a Superior Court session planned for this week, positive COVID19 cases and quarantines prevented many from being transported to and from court.
While visitation was suspended and because sheriff’s office staff were concerned for all the inmates mental health due to denying opportunity for visits, the detention center staff has worked to make sure inmates have had the opportunity to call family or friends as needed.
“Staff reported that inmates voiced appreciation for looking out for their well-being,” said Sheriff Holland.“Earlier this evening I called and had my staff communicate with each of our dorms via intercom system and asked if all inmates had the opportunity to use the phones today to call anyone if they needed to and the inmates confirmed they had. I also had them confirm all phones within our facility were operational throughout the weekend.”
At this time, only one inmate remains hospitalized due to Covid and has been on oxygen. The detention facility is unable to adequately provide an appropriate location for an inmate needing an device to provide oxygen due to all of the isolation cells being occupied with other Covid positive inmates. All other inmates’ symptoms range from no symptoms to minor symptoms. Medical staff from the health department and MCSO detention center physician have maintained continuous communication throughout the weekend with staff and inmates. All inmates continue to be doing well.
Sheriff Holland stated that for anyone concerned about a family member incarcerated within the facility, they can contact Macon County Jail Administrator Lieutenant Dereck Jones.
“Please understand that our staff will not confirm your family member has Covid and will not provide you with any medical information by telephone,” said Holland. “They legally are not permitted to do so. Your has access to a telephone and can call you to provide their medical information if they choose. No inmate currently incarcerated in our facility is severely ill at this time but all of them continue to be closely monitored.”