No potential cases of coronavirus among DeKalb jail inmates or staff have been reported. But Maddox wanted to assure friends and family members of inmates that “we are prepared and well equipped to handle any medical crisis that may arise inside this facility.”
She said other county jails in metro Atlanta are following similar guidelines as angst grows over the possible spread of coronavirus in Georgia.
CDC recommends preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• If you are concerned you might have the coronavirus, call your healthcare provider before going to a hospital or clinic. In mild cases, your doctor might give you advice on how to treat symptoms at home without seeing you in person, which would reduce the number of people you expose. But in more severe cases an urgent care center or hospital would benefit from advance warning because they can prepare for your arrival. For example, they may want you to enter a special entrance, so you don’t expose others.
When an inmate is booked into the jail, they are screened for symptoms of the virus and asked about recent international travel, said Terri Van Dorn, the health services administrator for Wellpath, which contracts with the sheriff’s office to provide medical services. The CDC recently expanded guidelines for coronavirus testing to include people with symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath coupled with travel to high-risk areas, including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.
The Fulton jail is taking similar precautions, Flanagan said. New hand-washing stations are being installed in public areas at the main jail and the jail annexes, which can hold 3,048 inmates.
DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox speaks at Wednesday’s press conference.
DeKalb’s jail infirmary has six isolation cells; inmates can also be transported to Grady Memorial Hospital if they need to be kept in a more serious quarantine. Staff members are keeping a “watchful eye” on inmates to see if they develop symptoms after coming into the facility, Van Dorn said.
The DeKalb County Board of Health said Tuesday that while no cases have been reported in DeKalb, officials are “ready to respond” if they surface.
“The two cases identified in Fulton County are travel-related exposures, not community spread,” DeKalb County District Health Director S. Elizabeth Ford said in a statement. “While I realize that everyone is greatly concerned about the rapid spread of the virus in several parts of the world, the actions that you would take to prevent the spread of any respiratory disease is the very same for COVID-19.”
So far, there are more than 100 confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the United States, including people in Washington, California, Florida and New York. Many of the diagnoses have come in the last week.
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