To date, Ford County Jail has had no COVID-19 cases

Judd Weil
Special to Dodge City Daily Globe
Ford County Jail and Sheriff's Office has had no positive cases among inmates since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Just because it is a new year does not mean the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has stopped, and the Ford County Sheriff’s Office is still maintaining its COVID-19 procedures for both staff and inmates.

Sheriff Bill Carr said that, to date, the jail has not seen one positive case in inmates since the pandemic began and that in a large part is thanks to coordination with the sheriff’s office's contract medical provider, Advanced Correctional Healthcare, and the Ford County Health Department.

Working with the Ford County Health Department, the sheriff’s office makes sure any new inmate gets tested per Kansas Department of Corrections policy, especially if an inmate were to be moved to a prison or other correctional facility.

Carr said only two staff members tested positive and had to quarantine.

The jail keeps up with standard precautions, such as temperature checks, periodic deep cleanings, masks and social distancing practices, and has precautions in case of an inmate contracting COVID-19.

The sheriff’s office also acquired fog machines to deep clean its detention vans after each time an inmate has been transported, be it to and from court or for extradition to an other county.

The sheriff's office also uses UV lighting to more effectively disinfect areas of the correctional facility.

“Due to the size of our facility, we have three units for just medical purposes, so if we identify somebody with a direct contact, we can isolate them in a medical cell and then monitor the inmate for whatever’s recommended by the medical staff before they are released back to their housing unit or gen-pop,” Carr said.

The booking area of the jail hosts holding cells, detox cells and safety cells on one side, while on the other there are three medical cells connected to a nursing station.

Medical staff maintains direct and constant contact with inmates via video and camera monitoring and window monitoring.

The jail currently holds about 125 inmates, about 50% of their maximum capacity according to Carr, and because of that it can maintain one person per cell to minimize the possibility of a positive case in the facility’s general population units.

“Honestly, I think the largest impact has just been procedures," Carr said. "Obviously we change procedures as CDC guidelines evolve, and at one point, we were changing with them once or twice a day."

Carr cites constantly getting staff and inmates alike to make sure they were wearing their masks and rubber gloves as an adjustment.

“When you’re booking in an inmate, there’s some personal contact that has to take place, and you can’t avoid that,” Carr said.

Changing procedures has made the jail staff more conscientious about contamination as they go about their duties, including changing gloves when working with a different inmate.

Maintaining personal protective equipment used to be an issue, with staff going through two boxes of gloves a day. Carr said the biggest issue they have with obtaining gloves now is the increased price-gouging making them more expensive.

Thanks to the Kansas Department of Corrections and the National Sheriffs Association, the sheriff’s office is able to maintain a stock of masks for inmates and staff.

“We’re just trying to stay ahead of the curve, and I would like to think that the measures we’ve taken has helped us in combatting COVID-19,” Carr said. “It’s still an absolute threat to us if we were to get a case in the facility since the thing about this too is, is that crime hasn’t just shut off.”