The pandemic has not ended at the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office according to Sheriff Jerry Allen. Last week, he told county leaders the main entrance was locked to protect the public from possible exposure to airborne COVID due to staff and inmates that tested positive for the virus.
This week, he confirmed that the front doors remain closed to the public. The older building also houses the county jail where it is not possible to completely isolate infected individuals. Modern jails are better equipped to control and eliminate possible biohazards such as airborne viruses.
“You are correct that we locked our front doors in an effort to minimize public exposure to those within the Sheriff’s Office who are newly infected with COVID, according to our preliminary tests,” Allen said on Monday. “Only two inmates were taken in for further testing and evaluation. In total, we had four inmates test positive for COVID and one staff member. In our facility, we do not have a separation of ventilation systems, nor do we have a fingerprint (system) outside of the secured portion of the jail. As such it is difficult to provide for fresh, uncontaminated air to any public who would enter the facility.”
Sheriff Allen said the public entrance will remain closed until everyone inside tests negative.
“The doors will remain locked for the next few days as we still have inmates testing positive for COVID. When the inmates are no longer testing positive, we will again open the doors to the public and resume normal daily operations.”
The jail’s maximum inmate capacity is normally 25 inmates. When the population is very low, the jail can provide a limited level of isolation for inmates, Sheriff Allen said.
“We have minimal ways to isolate COVID positive inmates as long as we stay under 5 inmates,” he explained. “Over that, we cannot effectively isolate inmates with our current facility.”
Sheriff Allen has warned county leaders that the jail is antiquated with old plumbing, heating and air conditioning units that are costly to maintain but a new county jail will cost millions of dollars.
Jail inmates who request COVID vaccinations are given the opportunity, Sheriff Allen said. Health officials claim the vaccines help prevent serious illness that requires hospitalization.
“Vaccines are still available to inmates and staff alike if they would like to obtain them. That is a personal choice for those persons,” Sheriff Allen explained in an email. “If they request the vaccine, we will take them to the clinic and allow them to be vaccinated without delay.”
The county commission approved Sheriff Allen’s request for an expenditure of just over $6,000 for the Sheriff’s App that he said is ready to go live. The app provides public access to jail inmate rosters, active warrants, emergency alerts, registered sex offenders and most wanted individuals in the area and allows citizens to report suspicious activity through anonymous tips.
“We had a few snafus internally with our program syncing up with the VINE system, we had some issues with Apple,” he told the board. “It was previously approved under the first round of government (COVID) funding that they gave out to the counties…This was originally a three way split between the commissary fund, the asset forfeiture fund and the first round of COVID funding…Since those (COVID) funds have expired, and the bill just came due, I’m looking for approval to come out of the current round of (COVID) funding so we can pay for that.”
Sheriff Allen said enforcement has increased after numerous complaints of speeding in Imlay.
“We had a few complaints about the school zone itself so I sent three deputies and they were able to get them to slow down for a little while,” he said. “We’re switching now from the complaints of speed to the complaints of too many people getting tickets.”