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Henry County Sheriff's Office, Public Safety receive grant to fight COVID-19 in the jail and emergency vehicles

Henry County Sheriff's Office, Public Safety receive grant to fight COVID-19 in the jail and emergency vehicles

From the Martinsville-region COVID-19/coronavirus daily update from state, nation and world: May 29 series
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The Henry County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded a federal grant for a disinfection system and other equipment to manage the spread of COVID-19 in the jail and emergency vehicles.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday appropriated $48,233 to the sheriff’s office from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program. About $12,000 of the award will be combined with a $10,000 grant from The Harvest Foundation to Henry County Public Safety to purchase an AHP Fogger Disinfection System.

The fogger uses hydrogen peroxide to sanitize enclosed spaces, killing 99.999% of pathogens, including the coronavirus. Officials plan to use the system at the jail, in ambulances and other county facilities, board documents show.

In a letter to supervisors, Henry County Public Safety Director Matt Tatum wrote, “The small size of the jail cells and ambulances prohibits the ability to practice social distancing when forced to occupy these spaces with another person. The use of this unit by these departments to disinfect and sanitize these spaces on a routine basis, in addition to on-going routine cleaning, will reduce the chances of spreading diseases to our customers and staff.”

Although no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Henry County Jail, the virus has spread rapidly in other correctional facilities in Virginia because of the close quarters and shared living space. The number of confirmed cases among state inmates surpassed 1,000 during the Memorial Day weekend, according to the official tally maintained by the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Virginia has the 10th highest rate of cases among state prisoners, with more than three cases for every 100 inmates, according to data from The Marshall Project, which has partnered with The Associated Press to track COVID-19 in correctional settings.

As for the rest of the federal grant, Henry County Sheriff’s Office plans to use $19,170 for equipment to hermetically seal inmates’ clothing and personal items to reduce the risk of contamination, according to board documents.

Another $6,000 is budgeted for video conferencing equipment at the sheriff’s office and jail, where visitation of inmates has been suspended during the pandemic. The remaining $11,000 will provide disposable personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks, face shields and gowns.

Kim Barto Meeks is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at 276-638-8801.

Kim Barto Meeks is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at 276-638-8801.

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