Henry County sheriff implementing new protocols after COVID-19 deaths

Henry County Sheriff Reginald Scandrett said: “I cannot lose another life without being very responsible relative to what we can do."
Henry County Sheriff Reginald Scandrett said: “I cannot lose another life without being very responsible relative to what we can do."

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Plans include mandatory masks, temperature checks, increased cleaning regimens

New Henry County Sheriff Reginald Scandrett is implementing additional protocols aimed at protecting employees and inmates after three of the county’s law enforcement officials died of COVID-19 complications this week.

Mike Delay, a 50-year-old telecommunications operator for the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, died Sunday at Piedmont Newton Hospital. He was the second sheriff’s office employee to die of COVID-19 complications in a week, officials said.

Mike Delay, a telecommunications operator at the Henry County Sheriff's Office, died of COVID-19 complications on Sunday. He was 50.
Mike Delay, a telecommunications operator at the Henry County Sheriff's Office, died of COVID-19 complications on Sunday. He was 50.

Credit: Henry County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Henry County Sheriff's Office

Explore3rd Henry County employee dies of COVID-19 complications this month

Scandrett, who took over as sheriff Jan. 1, called all three deaths tragic and said he hopes the new protocols will mitigate the spread of coronavirus among deputies, inmates and sheriff’s office staff.

“This is a monster of a virus and no one is safe, including public safety and law enforcement officials,” said Scandrett, who contracted COVID himself in early December after attending a statewide training event for newly elected sheriffs.

“I cannot lose another life without being very responsible relative to what we can do,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re taking every measure possible to ensure our employees are safe, our inmates are safe and our vendors are safe.”

Scandrett’s new safety protocols include mandating masks and temperature checks for anyone who enters the jail or department headquarters, he said, measures that were not in place before. He also said he is hiring an outside company to disinfect common areas and deputies’ patrol cars at least once a week.

Deputy Nicholas Howell died of COVID complications Jan. 3. Described as a “consummate law enforcement professional,” Howell, who was just 36, is survived by his wife and five children. He was honored at a memorial service outside sheriff’s office headquarters Friday morning ahead of his funeral in South Georgia.

Henry County Deputy Nicholas Howell died of COVID-19 complications, according to the sheriff's office.
Henry County Deputy Nicholas Howell died of COVID-19 complications, according to the sheriff's office.

Credit: Henry County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Henry County Sheriff's Office

In addition, the Henry County Police Department is mourning the loss of a veteran sergeant who succumbed to COVID complications last Thursday. Sgt. David Crumpler, 60, spent more than a week in the hospital on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma following his diagnosis. His colleagues said Crumpler previously retired from the police department, but came back part-time and also served as a training instructor because he loved what he did. Crumpler’s funeral arrangements have not been publicly announced.

Sgt. David Crumpler spent more than a week in the hospital on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma following his diagnosis.
Sgt. David Crumpler spent more than a week in the hospital on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma following his diagnosis.

Credit: Henry County Police Department

Credit: Henry County Police Department

It’s unclear whether the men contracted the virus at work or elsewhere.

In addition to the new protocols, Scandrett said only mandatory employees are required to report for work. Those who can work from home, such as those in administrative positions, have been instructed to do so.

Since the onset of the pandemic last March, the sheriff’s office has had 21 guards, 29 field officers and 33 inmates test positive for the highly contagious virus. Another 20 jail employees called out of work since last year after being potentially exposed, Scandrett said.

As of Tuesday morning, there were no active cases among the jail’s 454 inmates, though one person is awaiting test results, the sheriff’s office said.

In neighboring Newton County, nearly two dozen inmates tested positive for COVID-19 following an outbreak at the jail, Sheriff Ezell Brown announced last week. Officials believe the inmates likely contracted the virus from jail staff.

It’s unclear how many Henry County police officers have contracted the virus since last spring. In an email, a spokesman for the police department said officers are also taking steps aimed at limiting coronavirus infections and reducing the spread, including masks, social distancing and frequently disinfecting surfaces.

“We are in the same situation as the rest of the world and we will get through it together,” the statement read.

There have been nearly 648,700 confirmed COVID cases in Georgia since the start of the pandemic, more than 10,440 confirmed deaths and over 45,000 hospitalizations, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Officials also reported 145 new confirmed deaths across the state Tuesday, the highest single-day total yet.

— AJC staff writer Sarah Kallis contributed to this article.

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