Fifteen Blount County Sheriff’s Office employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and five others are quarantining out of caution, Sheriff James Berrong announced on Facebook early Tuesday.

“The majority of the deputies are reporting mild flu and cold-like symptoms,” the post stated. “Daily operations at the sheriff’s office are running efficiently.”

The post added that no inmates have tested positive for the virus and BCSO is taking extra precautions to ensure it stays that way.

“We are also continuing to shield our inmate population from exposure inside the facility,” the post said.

Before being booked, inmates have their temperatures taken and receive additional screening if warranted. In-person contact at the jail also has been limited, with visitation and court hearings moved to video.

If an inmate tests positive for COVID-19, BCSO will follow state protocol, which includes notifying state and local health departments of infections, implementing feasible alternate work programs, suspending transfers from other facilities and quarantining new intakes for 14 days if possible.

“Even with protocols in place to limit exposure, the virus reared its ugly head,” Berrong posted. “The upside is that we are managing to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the ranks, and our reported cases are now on the downtick and we believe we have prevented any further spread.”

BCSO daily operations are running with new precautions. All people entering the Blount County Justice Center have their temperatures taken and are required to wear masks. Workers are deep cleaning and sanitizing the justice center regularly.

“The health of our deputies is a primary concern, and I am committed to looking after those who look after our community,” Berrong wrote. “To say it has been a challenge to manage this pandemic among our ranks is an understatement. The inherent dangers that our deputies face on a daily basis, especially in today’s environment, are now magnified by way of this insidious virus.”

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