COLUMBUS, Ga.(WRBL)- As the coronavirus pandemic continues, inmates at the Muscogee County Jail may soon be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available for inmates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be forced to take the shots.
Still, the Muscogee County Jail is keeping a close eye on who is coming in and out of the facility to limit exposure to the coronavirus. Correctional Officers and Sheriff’s Deputies are being monitored and asked to stay at home if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Inmates who come into the jail are asked if they have any symptoms and their temperatures are checked upon booking. Sheriff Greg Countryman says the jail is taking the necessary precautions to keep inmates and staff safe.
“Those that are incarcerated have to go through a 10 day quarantine and so we place everyone into one area, we separate them based on male and female of course. We make sure that we monitor them and that we look for symptoms and then once they’re done with that we can move them into general population,” Countryman said.
Currently, there are no inmates inside the jail who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials at the jail have managed to keep inmates free of COVID-19 by stopping outsiders from coming inside the facility. The state of Georgia has barred in-person visitation at state prisons since March 2020. Inmates are allowed to virtually visit with family members and are allowed phone access throughout the day to keep in touch with loved ones.
“With this COVID-19 it doesn’t have any friends, it doesn’t have any enemies, the virus just wants to live. What we want to do, we want the virus to die and not be able to have access into Muscogee County Jail,” Countryman said.
The COVID-19 vaccines are making their way through the community and slowly into the county jail. Correctional Officers and Sheriff’s Deputies have taken the COVID-19 vaccine. Countryman was one of the first in his office to receive the injection, along with the Chief Deputy and other members of the Sheriff’s Office.
“It was very fast, it was very quick, I have not had any side effects. “I don’t know if anyone that has taken the vaccine has had any side effects,” Countryman said.
Countryman is not forcing his Deputy or Correctional Officers to take the vaccine because it is a personal decision. Inmates inside the jail will not be forced to get the vaccine either. Countryman explained the jail is a temporary holding place, unlike prison. Those housed in the jail may receive the first round of the vaccine and bond out the next day. They are unable to ensure that those who bond out will receive a second dose of the vaccine.
Jail officials at the jail don’t want to make it a practice to administer the first part of the vaccine and not administer the second half. Medical contractors have applied for the license but have not been granted a license to issue the vaccine to inmates. So, officials are unable to offer the vaccine to those inside the jail.
Countryman believes that the vaccine should be available to everyone regardless of whether you’re inside or outside the jail or another person.
“That should be a human right to get the vaccine for something that is so deadly and so dangerous,” Countryman said.