During this week’s commissioners court meeting, it was announced that visitation at the Grayson County Jail had been canceled for this week. The move comes as jail officials attempt to protect both staff and those incarcerated as much as possible from the spread of COVID-19.

There were 487 people in the jail as of Tuesday morning.

“We have taken steps to protect those folks,” Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt said.

Some of those steps like cancelling visitation, may not be popular but they are necessary at this time, he said. They have also postponed AA meetings and religious services, he said, in an effort to limit the number of people coming into contact with both the inmates and the jail staff.

In an email Wednesday, GC Captain Harvey Smitherman said that the situation with the visitation is for this week only and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

He said inmates’ families can still visit with them via phone and send letters to the jail. Smitherman said the inmates have been given all of the information available to the general public about the spread of COVID-19 and are advised about hand washing and sanitation.

He said jail staff are also following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations with regard to sanitation and hand washing. The jail also has medical staff on hand 24-hours a day, seven days a week to help screen those who might think they are susceptible to COVID-19.

“I assure we are not wanting to deal with this sort of virus in our community (the jail) because we don’t have the capability with our current jail setting to set up appropriate isolation and quarantine and I don’t have the people to deal with that,” Watt said.

He added that about two weeks ago, the jail was besieged by a nasty flu bug that sickened both inmates and staff.

“We had inmates in hospitals and we had to rely on patrol people to sit at the hospitals because I didn’t have enough detention staff because they were hit equally as hard. It was a try run for us on this particular thing.”

He said enforcement responsibilities won’t change that much with regard to the COVID-19 precautions, but they will, when possible, do as much of it by phone as possible.

Watt thanked his staff, the people at the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office, the Grayson County Health Department and Grayson County Office of Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers for their help with the matter.

“It is a good feeling knowing that we have somebody like Sarah at the helm,” Watt said referring to OEM Director Somers.”I trust her 100 percent and when we are in the middle of the bad thing, she makes the right call every time.”

For more information on the coronavirus, visit: http//www.HeraldDemocrat.com/Coronavirus.