Coronavirus: Greene County deputy tests positive

Greene County Sheriff’s cruiser. Staff photo
Greene County Sheriff’s cruiser. Staff photo

A Greene County sheriff’s deputy has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized, according to Greene County Health Commissioner Melissa Howell.

The deputy was assigned to road patrol, and Howell said the Greene County Health District does not believe the new case is associated with the Greene County Jail. She said the deputy could have caught the virus anywhere in the community.

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“He had a good night, so that’s good news,” said Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer. “Obviously (he’s) not out of the woods yet.”

Greene County now has 20 confirmed cases with six people hospitalized, according to an update from the local health district Tuesday morning.

Officials are hoping to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in confined living environments like jails, prisons, dorms and care facilities because of the likelihood it would spread quickly throughout the populations.v

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“The concern lately has been these jail and prison populations,” Howell said. “We know that there are cases that are occurring in some of those prison populations. But I know our sheriff has done a good job about reducing the population that’s in there.”

All employees of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office who go into work are checked at the beginning of the day — including Fischer. Temperatures are taken and several questions are asked about whether the employee has experienced any coronavirus symptoms.

Fischer said the office has sent home eight or nine employees so far for either having a high temperature or associating with a person or people that could have come in contact with the virus. Only one positive test has come from the office’s employees.

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“The criminal justice system in Greene County is open and we’re still doing our jobs and trying to take precautions as we do our jobs,” Fischer said. “

Fischer said deputies are taking reports over the phone more and when they do go to a home they ask people to come out instead of going inside as ways the department is trying to reduce in-person interactions.

“We want to reduce the opportunities for our employees to transmit to, or receive from somebody, the virus,” Fischer said. “We moved some of our equipment out into the lobby so that our staff doesn’t have to have one-on-one contact, they can do it through a window now and that seems to be working real well.”

In response to the coronavirus, the population of the Greene County Jail has been reduced from about 300 inmates to 147 as of Tuesday, according to Fischer.

“Everyday they are screening their own employees and I’m also aware they are screening any inmates that might be coming in,” Howell said. “They do have their inmates properly spaced out. … From the moment this started, really back in January, he (Fischer) has taken this incredibly serious.”

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