Safety Check

 Wharton County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher Krystie Avendano has her temperature checked, now a routine safety effort at the jail and offices.

The Wharton county jail is prepared for any inmates testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

Five inmates in the Dallas County jail have tested positive for COVID-19, this week and it’s a growing fear around the state that jails could be vulnerable to an outbreak.

While COVID-19 cases have rose from one to three inside Wharton County, zero are in the county jail. If a situation should arise, the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office is ready for anyone who needs to be locked up while they have the virus.

“(If a normal person) gets sick on the job, we can go home and isolate ourselves,” Sheriff Shannon Srubar said. “Here you can’t do that. You can’t just send an inmate that’s being held home, they have to stay here. So we have to try and prevent any of that from coming in.”

When deputies arrest someone now, part of the screening process is a series of questions to make sure the arrestee hasn’t been around someone who has the virus or to an area that has had an outbreak. Once they get to the jail, someone will come and take their temperature. If needed the arrestee will be examined by a physician before putting them in to the jail.

Along with the new boarding process, Srubar has also suspended inmate visitation indefinitely. Inmates are still allowed to use jailhouse phones.

Some non-violent offenders have been released on personal recognizance bonds (pr bounds) from the Wharton County Jail. Numbers were not available as of press time.

The jail holds 144 people and currently, they are housing around 100 inmates, Srubar said. If the need for an individual cell arises, they could move prisoners around to isolate that person.

Despite the more rigorous process; the virus could still find a way inside.

If any inmates have the virus, they will isolate that person, provide treatment and other needs while not risking other inmates’ health.

The virus has been known to cause those who have it a hospital stay and in worse cases, a ventilator and ICU care. While a worst-case scenario the inmate would be accompanied by a deputy at all times.

Admittedly, Srubar says, these are things the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office have never really planned for. They along with other counties throughout Texas are all trying to figure everything out in real-time.

“That’s basically it, we’d medicate and isolate. Those are the two things we’d do if it happened to a particular individual,” Srubar said. “Of course we’d keep in contact with the Texas Jail Commission to keep them informed and see if they had any resources they could send our way. But there really is no fix-all answer to this.”

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