ASHLAND -- Over the past two weeks -- and especially since COVID-19 arrived in Ohio -- the Ashland County Sheriff's Office has implemented proactive measures to protect its inmates and staff at the Ashland County Jail and its officers who respond to emergencies in the community.
Earlier this week, the Ashland County Jail began a policy that requires every new arrestee to have their temperature taken (across their head).
If the individual tests above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the new arrival will then be checked for other symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough and shortness of breath.
"If they have another symptom, we're going to refuse that inmate, if we can, and have them go to the hospital to be checked and cleared, and if they do that, then we'll bring them back in," said Sheriff E. Wayne Risner.
When the individual returns, they may be placed in an isolated cell if they still exhibit symptoms. The cell has its own ventilation system.
"We're just adapting to the situation that's going on... We've got a lot of information from a lot of different organizations and agencies in the state," Risner said, pointing to a stack of papers on the table in front of him.
One of those documents in a 13-page policy from the Lorain Correctional Institute on how they operate in such scenarios. Another is from the Governor Mike DeWine's office. And yet another comes from the Sheriffs' Association.
Guidelines and information continually arrive, making the newly implemented policies incredibly fluid. They change daily, even hourly.
"That's been the challenge this past week, to keep up on the emails from everybody," Risner said.
Because the Ashland County Sheriff's Office Corrections Division does not offer face-to-face/contact visitations for inmates, the Office hasn't needed to make a decision to discontinue such visits.
Attorneys, background investigators or any person(s) requesting to visit with an inmate will take place in one of the visiting booths. Video visitation will stay the same.
Further, all volunteer services and group activities for the jail have been suspended until further notice, except for ACCADA and Appleseed counseling services, which do take place in-person. Canceled activities include AA meetings, church and bible studies.
Sheriff's Office staff have also been instructed to limit the entry of any visitors. Most business should be conducted through the glass ports in dispatch or reception. As of now, the office will still be processing CCW’s and fingerprinting.
"We're taking a very proactive approach to this, and I think we're doing everything we can," said Jail Administrator, Capt. David Blake.
He highlighted ongoing education with staff and explained how gloves, masks, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer has been provided in abundance. A memo was posted about using the hand sanitizer and regularly washing hands.
As for officers along the road, they've been provided with similar materials. Officers are instructed to maintain six feet distance from the people they speak with and may use masks. The office currently has provided surgical masks as N-95 masks are ordered and yet to be delivered.
Dispatchers will inquire about sickness within the home and recent travel before officers and emergency personnel arrive at the scene of emergencies.
"It puts responders on alert that there's a risk," said Lt. Randy Wood, who said his protocol is modeled after that of local hospitals.
To keep the public informed, the Ashland County Sheriff's Office has posted news alerts to its website, www.ashlandcountysheriff.org.
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