The Moore County Sheriff’s Office has implemented a number of measures to protect jail inmates and detention officers from coronavirus that includes taking inmates’ temperatures before being booked.
Capt. Bill Flint outlined the plans for Moore County commissioners during their meeting Tuesday evening.
Other measures include quarantining new arrivals for 96 hours before they are put with the general population, regular screening of detention officers before starting their shifts to ensure they do not have symptoms of the highly contagious virus and increasing the frequency of cleaning the facility.
Detention officers will also be given protective masks and extra cleaning supplies, and inmates will be given extra soap, he said.
Flint said the Sheriff’s Office has been working with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to follow guidelines to prevent the spread of this virus.
“This response is a concerted effort,” Flint told commissioners. “The safety and security of the staff, the inmates and the citizens of the county is a great responsibility, and everyone has come together to develop this response plan.
“Remember, no matter what, the facility will run. So please thank the officers and remember that we are the ones that will be there making this happen. Many of the officers understand that we cannot predict the future but we can prepare as best as we can for it.”
Flint said screening for suspects who are arrested and brought to the jail will include questioning them about whether they have any symptoms of coronavirus. He said anyone who has a fever will be put in medical isolation until they can be tested.
He said the testing will be done on site by the medical vendor. He said if additional testing is needed, officers will take the inmate to a drive-through site, which are being set up around the state.
Flint said all transportation of inmates to and from the jail has been halted unless it is necessary for a court hearing to ensure the continuity of an inmate’s due process rights. He noted later in the meeting that all court dates have been suspended for 30 days unless it involves due process rights.
Flint said the Sheriff’s Office began working on preparations in early March starting with identifying cleaners and disinfectants that would be effective against coronavirus and ensuring adequate supplies are on hand. Shortly after that, officers increased the frequency of cleaning the facility.
He said they also met with the vendors that provide medical care to inmates, as well as the contractors that handle food service and inmate communications.
Flint said the Sheriff’s Office has identified space with a separate ventilation system for quarantining inmates. He said the Sheriff’s Office will consider using space in the old jail should it be needed in the future, depending on how long this situation lasts
“We feel this is a viable and robust solution for quarantining and housing inmates and officers,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office has also suspended all on-site visitation for inmates, but will provide limited free calls and messaging service for the next four weeks, Flint said.
He said attorneys can schedule phone visits with inmates and off-site video visitation.
Flint said the communication vendor is providing two free off-site video visits for inmates every six days, one free phone call a week and 20 free messages a week.
“The sheriff feels strongly that the inmate population should have communication with their families during this trying time,” Flint said. “Thanks to the technology at the detention center and a partnership with our contract provider, we can make that happen.”
Commissioner Catherine Graham thanked Flint and the Sheriff’s Office for the “effort and work” that has gone into this.
“That could be a real tragedy if you hadn’t taken all of these precautions should there be a case,” she said.
After the presentation, Board Chairman Frank Quis asked if there was any additional update on the overall coronavirus situation. County Manager Wayne Vest responded that as of late that afternoon, Moore County did not have any confirmed cases.
“That’s good to know,” Quis said. “But that should not lead us to be complacent at all.”