Jail staff scrambles to handle Covid-19 case

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Last week the Payne County Sheriff’s Department enacted its emergency protocol after a jailer tested positive for COVID-19.

The result was a rapid response from officials at the Payne County Health Department who arrived with COVID-19 tests.

“We were notified that one of our employees tested positive,” said Sheriff Kevin Woodward. “Within 15 minutes we enacted our emergency plan that we had in place. We asked for the Payne County Health Department to come over and help us. In less than 24 hours they were at our facility with 380 test kits. They were awesome. I can’t thank them enough.”

The Payne County Jail can house up to 404 inmates and 23 staff members.

Woodward said 180 tests were needed for the jail’s current population, which includes some federal prisoners.

He said jailers and other employees of the Sheriff’s office were tested and an offer was made to test any courthouse employees.

“We offered to anybody in the building, and we had quite a few people come down and take the test,” Woodward said.

Woodward said contact tracing revealed the jailer was exposed to the virus through a friend outside the jail. He began feeling sick and was sent home. The jailer was diagnosed through a rapid test at a clinic in Guthrie.

Woodward said sheriff department employees have their temperatures taken twice a day, upon arrival and halfway through their shifts. Anyone who begins to run a fever or show any other signs of illness will move to the next level and be asked to self-quarantine.

He said one inmate tested positive for COVID-19, but was already in isolation and was asymptomatic.

Woodward said there were no positive COVID-19 results when test results came in last Friday from county employees who were tested.

“We are just happy (no positive cases),” he said.