DeKalb sheriff symptom-free after contact with employee with COVID-19

DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox

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DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox

DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox could return to work Thursday, two days after being notified of a possible exposure to a colleague now diagnosed with COVID-19.

On Tuesday night, the sheriff's office issued a press release saying a jail supervisor had been diagnosed with the disease caused by the new coronavirus — and that Maddox had potentially been exposed.

The release said that Maddox had exhibited no symptoms and was cleared to return to work after seeing a doctor remotely on Tuesday. But it left a few unanswered questions.

Maddox cleared them up in a phone interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ExploreMORE: Complete coronavirus coverage from the AJC

The sheriff said that Wednesday marked the 14th day since her interaction with the supervisor, which she described as a passing encounter while she was doing her weekly walk-through of the jail’s housing units.

The incubation period for COVID-19 is believed to be 14 days.

“We just happened to be walking to the same floor,” Maddox said.

The sheriff said she worked remotely on Wednesday as a precaution. She was weighing whether or not to do the same on Thursday.

Maddox said she has not been tested for COVID-19 because she has not been symptomatic and the incubation period is over — and because the state’s supply of tests is limited.

“I am fine,” she said.

The identity of the 45-year-old female jail supervisor that Maddox came into contact with has not been released. She was the second DeKalb County jail employee to be diagnosed with COVID-19 since mid-March.

Two DeKalb inmates have also been diagnosed. At the time the sheriff's office announced their diagnoses, one of them, a 71-year-old male, was being cared for at the jail's infirmary. The other, a 35-year-old male, was at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Maddox said the sheriff’s office is currently down about 50 employees who are temporarily quarantined or self-isolating due to possible exposure to the employees or inmates confirmed to have COVID-19.

The office has also put several measures in place to try and stem the disease’s spread inside the jail.

In an effort to reduce the jail’s population, the sheriff’s office has also released about 50 low-level, non-violent offenders with low bails. More are likely to be released soon, Maddox said.

Incoming inmates are also being screened outside the jail and then isolated for 14 days once inside.

The visitation center is closed as well, and everyone entering the jail — including employees — is screened and denied access if they exhibit high temperatures, Maddox said.

In addition, all 1,400 or so inmates currently in the jail are being isolated in their cells most of the day.

The inmates are “released” once a day to clean their cells by mopping and wiping things down with a cleaning solution, Maddox said. The rest of the facility is cleaned regularly.

“It's for the safety of everybody,” Maddox said.