FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The COVID-19 public health emergency may have ended in May, but an outbreak in now happening in the Washington County Jail according to Washington County Sheriff Jay Cantrell.
Cantrell says COVID-19 tests and quarantining are a must for everyone coming in and out of the jail.
“We have a questionnaire we ask for. Everybody that comes in, gets asked the same set of questions, you know, ‘Are you feeling OK? Have you been around somebody with COVID or you’re running a fever? Do you have any of the COVID symptoms?’ If anybody answers positive only to those, we give them a test,” said Cantrell.
Cantrell says the COVID-19 outbreak first started with more than 40 cases. Now he says those cases have dropped to 31 positive cases. He thinks one of the main factors is overcrowding.
“We should be at 580 to 600 operationally. And so, we’re 200 over that, over our operational capacity. So we do have groups of folks that are in tight quarters,” said Cantrell.
Fayetteville city health officer Dr. Marti Sharkey says she feels one of the main concerns is for those who are more susceptible to the virus. Sharkey says it’s up to officials to make sure those people’s needs are met.
“We’re dealing with individuals where right now we’re saying it’s individual responsibility to kind of protect yourself, get immunized, practice all of your public health measures. These people aren’t really capable of doing that because they’re detained, so they’re living in close quarters. They cannot control whether they’re given a mask or not,” said Sharkey.
Cantrell says he went to the Washington County Quorum Court for help to increase spacing.
“Thought we had a good thing going and then we put it out for bids, and the bids came in 20% or 30% higher than we had anticipated,” said Cantrell.
Cantrell says COVID-19 cases tend to peak in the height of winter and summer seasons. He says the right steps are taken to make sure everyone’s safety and health come first.