Tuscaloosa County Sheriff talks about inmates testing positive for COVID-19

COVID-19 cases in Tuscaloosa County Jail

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy says the jail put measures in place months ago to protect inmates and jail staff from COVID-19.

Now the jail is closely monitoring 20 people still in custody with coronavirus. “To be truthful with you, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for it to get into the jail to be truthful with you,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy said the first positive case of an inmate in the county jail having coronavirus happened last week. The Sheriff had other inmates who shared a dorm with that person tested this week. 20 of them tested positive.

“It’s a terrible situation. We want to treat everyone as fairly as we can and make sure that they receive the proper medical attention,” Abernathy continued.

He said the first inmate to test positive is now being held in a federal facility on federal charges. The remaining 20 inmates who tested positive are not showing any symptoms.

“They have increased their capabilities to make sure we monitor these inmates effectively as possible to ensure the safety of the inmates and our staff,” the sheriff went on to say.

Abernathy says until last week, all of the Tuscaloosa County Jail inmates tested for coronavirus tested negative. They have tried to keep the illness out of the jail by limiting who comes into the facility now, having staff wear PPE and doing more cleaning in the jail.

“We did a number of measures at the very beginning of this involving isolation dorms. We went from 14 days to 21 days. And actually had isolation dorms for intake compared to the existing inmates,” Sheriff Abernathy went on to say.

Inmates are not immediately tested for coronavirus when they’re booked into the Tuscaloosa County Jail. Their temperature is checked. Jail staff also ask them a series of questions about their health as a part of a medical exam. But they are not automatically given a nasal swab test for the illness unless they show symptoms or there’s a possible exposure to the illness.

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