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Arkansas prisons crack down on safety measures with rising COVID cases

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 5:21 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:27 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Prisons around Arkansas are being placed on lockdown for the near future due to the surge of COVID-19 cases across the state.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections announced Friday that prisons are prohibiting visits and “limiting non-essential movement within and between facilities” until Jan. 14.

Officials said after Jan. 14, prison leaders will reassess and determine if the lockdown would need to be extended.

The announcement has caused some prisons and area detention centers to rethink their safety policies but not the Cross County Detention Center. Sheriff David West says they have been doing this for a while.

“You know this has been going on for a year and a half now,” said West. “We have kind of gotten into a routine of how we do it, and it has worked so far.”

The routine has included the testing and quarantining of all new inmates, along with the daily health checks of current ones. They are checks that on-staff nurse Mallory Pendergrass says are extremely important.

“We do daily vitals, I check their lungs, check their oxygen, make sure everything is okay with that,” said Pendergrass. “It can be huge because if something is off with those we can see if something is wrong.”

Sheriff West says that they have had a few employees test positive, but they send them home immediately and test the rest of the staff to be sure.

“We have everyone walk through a temperature scanner when they arrive,” said West. “We also make sure they haven’t been in contact with anyone contagious in the past 10 days.”

West and Pendergrass both stressed that no matter what, the people in the building are the most important thing.

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