County Jails Lack Protective Equipment for Coronavirus Pandemic

A supply of N95 protective masks are stored and ready in the supply room of the Emergency Department on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, at St. Clare Hospital in Fenton. The N95 masks are the type of masks that filter airborne particles such as those produced by the co​​rona virus. Photo by J.B. Forbes,

In a conference call last Wednesday, experts from across the country discussed a shortage of protective equipment and other measures to combat a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in county jails.

“Among many topics, we talked about a shortage of personal protective equipment and N95 masks for law enforcement and jail personnel,” Kevin Merritt, executive director of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association, said by email. “Priority is given to EMS responders and health care facilities.”

The protective equipment helps protect against the spread of infectious disease.

Merritt said the shortage of equipment was among the concerns mentioned in a conference call about COVID-19 on Wednesday with representatives of the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts.

Merritt said the following precautions are suggested to sheriffs and jail administrators:

• Screen staff, arrestees and current incarcerated population for COVID-19.

• Prepare to handle staff coming to work despite being ill because they do not have paid leave or enough paid leave who may pose a risk to other staff and inmates.

• Do non-contact visitation.

• Limit contact between inmates and the community during trips outside of jails.

• Use telemedicine when possible for medical appointments.

St. Louis Today

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