Owensboro and Daviess County law enforcement and fire officials said Thursday they would continue to respond to calls for service, but would be taking more precautions to guard against exposure to coronavirus.
Although there have been no cases of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Daviess County, officials with city and county agencies said the plan is to respond to calls while
“While we don’t know what is going to happen in terms of buildings closing, services will continue at the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department,” said Lt. Scott Wedding, a member of the sheriff’s office’s command staff. “We will continue to have deputies out to answer service calls.”
The sheriff’s department also provides security for the Holbrook Judicial Center on Second Street, and the office collects taxes at the county courthouse.
Major Barry Smith, chief deputy for the department, said the tax office would remain open unless a decision was made to close the courthouse by Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.
Wedding said deputies carry some protective gear with them.
“We have masks; we have gowns; we have protective goggles and everybody has extra boots,” Wedding said. “We are not supplied as medical services would be.”
Officer Andrew Boggess, public information officer for the Owensboro Police Department, said, as of Thursday, the department had not made any changes in its activities due to coronavirus.
“It’s something we are certainly watching, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that there could be some changes,” Boggess said.
Of the patrol officers, Boggess said, “(We are) trying to ensure they have plenty of hand sanitizer, and are taking as many precautions as possible.”
The department will also follow additional recommendations made by health officials, Boggess added.
As part of the profession, officers frequently deal with the public.
“We don’t always have the option of staying 6 feet away,” Boggess said. “If there are recommendations that come down that are appropriate to take on, I’m sure we will.”
City and county fire departments respond to multiple medical calls daily.
Daviess County Fire Chief Jeremy Smith said firefighters will wear protective equipment, such as masks and goggles, with any patients experiencing flu-like symptoms.
“With coronavirus, COVID-19, the signs and symptoms are very similar to flu,” Smith said.
Firefighters will also decontaminate equipment when leaving medical emergencies, he added.
The department will “try to keep our guys informed of what’s going on,” Smith said. The department does have stockpiled medical equipment, he said.
“We’ll still be there to help people where we can, and help out the community,” Smith said.
Owensboro Fire Chief James Howard said the department has medical gear and cleaning supplies, but said, “we are having the same issue the public is having; the supply chain is disrupted and supplies are difficult to obtain. Cleaning supplies and protective equipment, it’s going to be a challenge staying stocked up on those.”
On calls, firefighters “will be more on guard, and (will) wear additional equipment” when needed, Howard said. The department intends to provide “the same level of care” as before, Howard said.
“We are trying to make sure we are as ready as we can be,” Howard said. “I am concerned, but we are doing what we can; we are following the recommendations of the CDC, and that’s all we can do right now.”
Howard said 911 dispatch will gather information on medical calls for responders.
Paul Nave, the dispatch director, said medical calls would be triaged through the ambulance service, American Medical Response, which has its own dispatcher. Nave said the dispatch center is developing questions dispatchers will ask.
Daviess County Jailer Art Maglinger said the jail has not stopped visitation, but said the jail does not have contact visitation. At the jail, people are separated from inmates by a partition. Only attorneys and clergy can have contact visitation with inmates.
“I know some jails across the state are restricting visitors from coming in,” Maglinger said. “We haven’t taken that step yet.”
Brad Boyd, president of the Kentucky Jailers Association and Christian County Jailer, said Gov. Andy Beshear and health officials recommended Wednesday jails stop all contact visits with inmates.
Boyd said a concern is deputy jailers will become ill, leaving county jails without sufficient staff to adequately man shifts.
“For us, and I would think this goes for every jail in the state, I don’t know too many jails that are fully staffed,” Boyd said. “... If I have ‘X’ staff and I’m already short-staffed, if the staff gets sick, where does that leave me?”
Maglinger said the jail increased its cleaning regime on March 2, cleaning door handles, countertops and other items inmate and deputies touch on a regular basis.
Maglinger said those items are being cleaned with bleach at least twice each shift.
The jail could quarantine sick inmates if necessary, Maglinger said. The jail deals with illnesses frequently, he added.
In a written statement sent later Thursday, Maglinger said people over age 60, and people with chronic medical conditions, should “refrain from visiting the facility at this time. People who can’t visit inmates in person can send email or call. The email service is free and can be found at https://jailfunds.com
In Ohio County, Jailer Gerry “Rip” Wright said Thursday the jail has stopped all visitation, and not allowing volunteers into the jail for ministry or classes.
“The only way you can come into the jail now is if you’re arrested,” Wright said.
The jail has also greatly increased the cleaning of cells and inmate areas, Wright said.
“We make sure they do on-the-hour spraying,” Wright said.
Officials from the Muhlenberg County Detention Center did not return a call for comment Thursday.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse