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With COVID-19 cases in Chatham Co., sheriff announces plans for misdemeanor arrests

Crime & Safety

Video posted March 11, 2020

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) says they are taking proactive measures to protect their employees, inmates and the community at large against COVID-19.

Last week, Sheriff John Wilcher said told News 3 he would restrict access to the jail if positive cases of the new virus were confirmed in Chatham County.

On Friday, the first two cases in the county were reported by health officials.

Now in effect, Wilcher says anyone who commits a misdemeanor offense will “still be arrested and will be held accountable” but will not be allowed into the Chatham County Detention Center (CCDC). The arresting agencies will still be responsible for processing the arrested person and setting their court date.

“The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and jail are in good health and we want to keep it that way,” said Wilcher in a video statement last week. “We are continuing our day to day operation with awareness of staying healthy and keeping those around us healthy and maintaining good health standards.”

For any other arrestees, CCSO said they are screening each person arrested and brought into the jail.

Officials say CCDC is equipped with four isolations cells that can hold two people in each cell if an inmate does test positive for coronavirus. Wilcher said the jail’s medical facility also has an infectious disease nurse on staff in the case of an outbreak.

“If anyone that works at the Chatham County jail is sick we are having them stay home,” Wilcher said.

“For employees that are working, we are reminding them to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, cover their mouth when they cough and use a tissue when they sneeze,” he added.

Meanwhile, the visitation center is closed until further notice. CCSO said friends and loved ones can use the jail’s online service instead of taking in-person trips.

Officials also discourage sending printed materials to the detention center, stating: “They will be held and not delivered until all COVID-19 threats have been cleared.”

Wilcher tells News 3 he is working with the Center for Disease Control for Prevention, the Department of Health, the Georgia governor’s COVID-19 task force and Homeland Security to minimize and contain the coronavirus within the jail and to prevent the spread outside the jail.

Other law enforcement, fire and emergency management leadership within Chatham County were informed of the jail’s plan at a recent meeting.

Officials at CCSO did stress that their plan is fluid and they are continuing to meet and discuss what’s best for the safety of those in the jail and community.

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