COVID-19 impacts Pershing County sheriff’s office

Pershing County health officials expressed concern about a recent “surge” in COVID-19 cases at last week’s LEPC (Local Emergency Management Committee) meeting. The pandemic is an ongoing issue for essential services including law enforcement according to Sheriff Jerry Allen.

“My office was hit hard with five staff members, including three sworn (deputies) and two dispatchers who were out with COVID,” he said. “We just had two inmates test positive.”

In a subsequent email last week, Sheriff Allen provided an update on the situation.

“I have two inmates that tested positive for COVID and they are both isolated within our facility. None have been shipped out to other facilities as of yet,” he said. “I have four staff members who have tested positive for COVID and all are isolating at their individual residences for the required 10 days.”

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office still has five vacancies for Sheriff’s Deputies with two potential candidates undergoing background checks. Applicants for Dispatch Supervisor are being tested and the vacancy in the administrative office has been filled, Sheriff Allen said.


In her COVID report for LEPC, County Health Officer Dr. Kamin Van Guilder said a recent “bump” in confirmed cases indicates the pandemic is still a concern for health officials.

“As of two days ago, it was down pretty good but, unfortunately, we have had quite the bump in the last 24 hours,” she said. “We had five positive cases yesterday afternoon and three so far today. That is eight cases in the last 24 hours. Some of them are linked, some we are still investigating. We had five before that for the entire month so it looks like a second round.”

Those who test positive are notified to isolate themselves at home for ten days and “quite a few contacts” have been notified and quarantined including family and friends, Dr. Van Guilder said. 

Deaths have declined with the most recent death of a community member on October 5. The county’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases so far is 1,084 with 26 confirmed deaths, she said.

Vaccines are still available at the hospital clinic and the county health nurse office.

“We have seen other viruses...There are lots of other fun viruses around,” Dr. Van Guilder told the LEPC committee. “Masks, hand hygiene, all those things can help prevent transmission of all of those viruses. Just a reminder for people to try to wear your masks, wash your hands, etc.”


Director of Emergency Management Sean Burke outlined the public health and safety grants he has in the works for Pershing County including a $52,201 state grant for COVID vaccinations.

“That’s been used to augment personnel and resources to conduct COVID vaccinations in the county,” he said. “It’s a two year grant and the first year of it is pretty much behind us.”

A United We Stand grant was approved for $21,936 for law enforcement to fund kevlar helmets and tactical first aid kits for the local SWAT team. A $28,690 SERC OPTI grant will pay for new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for the county fire departments.

“I have not heard back from the vendor on the status of the order,” Burke said. “I suspect all the parts are probably stuck in a cargo ship in the Los Angeles harbor right now.”

A $12,500 EMPG (Emergency Management Program Grant) is still in the works, he said.

“That’s what pays for the emergency manager, satellite phones for the sheriff and Alert Sense,” Burke said. “We also reconciled the EMPG COVID Supplemental Grant. We ended up getting $7,307. That’s what funded the portable mortuary and electrical upgrades. It supported that when we first started this COVID thing so, with any luck, that grant is in our rear view mirror.”

Recently closed out and pending grant activity for the year totalled $122,634, Burke said. 


For next year’s training exercise requirements (to maintain Pershing County’s qualifications for emergency grants), Burke suggested the committee consider a mock evacuation scenario.

“One of the things we have not thought about for awhile is an evacuation particularly in conjunction with a large wildland fire,” he said. “Was it three years ago that we did the 155 Fire in Grass Valley and we were talking about where we were going to put people? That’s one thing we might want to consider. That gives us a chance to exercise that (command) trailer and I would offer up the Grass Valley Community Center.” 


Burke commended committee member Dave Skelton for organizing and testing AlertSense. The notification system alerts county employees of emergencies by email, texts and/or phone calls.

“I am very confident that the system will work when called on,” Burke said. “Continued great job. You are doing a wonderful service for your community.”