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County inmates kept safe from COVID

It’s no secret that Pike County has the oldest jail in the state.

But, Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas said the oldest jail in the state is also the only jail in the state that hasn’t had inmate with COVID-19.

“We’ve been able to keep COVID out of the jail,” Thomas said. “We’re the only one in the state that has done that. That’s really a reflection on our staff. I’m very proud of our employees. They stood tall and showed up every day and continued to perform their duties.

“It’s been almost two years now [since the pandemic started]. During that time, the government had to shut down. So all county government was shut down except for the sheriff’s office and its employees, deputies, the jailers and the cooks. We’ve reopened now, but the sheriff’s office employees continued to show up 24 hours a day, seven days a week through that shut down. They did an outstanding job.”

Thomas said when the pandemic first began, he contacted a doctor at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and asked what to expect.

“He told me it was going to be like nothing he had encountered,” Thomas said. “He told e it was going to be like something none of us had encountered before and he told me to be prepared.”

Thomas said he stocked up on three months of supplies —ranging from everything from sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer to Personal Protection Equipment.

“The thing that helped us the most was checking everyone’s temperature,” Thomas said. “One of the first inmates we got on a transfer was from Lee County. We checked his temperature and it was over a hundred and we sent him back.”

Thomas said he and his staff meet about three times everyday to ensure they have all the bases covered when it comes to keeping COVID under control at the county jail. He said that dedication has paid off.

“It takes a lot to manage it,” Thomas said. “You can’t go to sleep on it. We’re still dealing with it. Our staff has stood tall and met the challenge and I’m proud of them.”