The Bell County Jail received some good news recently as all the inmates and jail staff tested negative for COVID-19.

MCHC brought a mobile unit to the jail and conducted 132 of the tests. That included the kitchen staff, work release inmates and work release supervisors, all of the inmates and jailers.

“I’m real proud of what done here and there are a lot of people to thank for our success,” Jailer Gary Ferguson said. “I can’t say how much I appreciate all of the local law enforcement for their cooperation. This is all new to everybody and they have worked very well with us and are trying their very best to comply with everything we’ve asked of them. That’s Probabtion and Parole, the Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police, Middlesboro Police and Pineville Police, all of the local attorneys and the judges, we’re all trying to get through this together. So far we on the positive side of everything being negative.”

Ferguson said the key was simply following all the proper protocols.

“Every hour we try to clean all of our door handles and things like that. We’re contantly washing our hands and it’s mandatory that all officers wear masks. If any of our inmates come out their cell for any reason we put a mask on them,” he said. “Also everybody that comes into the jail — and there are very few that do — but they’ve been very cooperative about wearing masks and washing their hands.”

“I’ve got to thank Judge Brock because he got us a whole bunch of different santitizers and he’s let me know that whenever we need more to just let him know. He knows how vital that is.”

Jails are a particluarly difficult environment for preventing the spread of COVID-19 because inmates are kept in closed quarters with each other and it’s very difficult to do social distancing. Knox and Harlan county have seen positive cases in their jails and there has also been a positive case reported on a staff member at the Bell County Forestry Camp.

“We process about 4,000 inmates a year here and we’ve been dealing with this since the end of January. To think we’re up in July now and we haven’t had one positive case, that is newsworthy and I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” Ferguson added.

The Jailer wanted to thank the MCHC staff that came out to the Jail.

“I’ve got to thank Sarah Mables, Amber Allen, Rhonda White and Melissa Mills for all they did to help us out and for doing all the testing. I really appreciate them and all of the doctors and nurses who are putting themselves out there every day.

“This thing is very serious but if we pay attention to everything that we do we can minimize the spread of it,”Ferguson said. “Judge Brock has done a good job getting the message out to everybody. There’s no guarantee we won’t get a case in the next ten minutes, but I’m very thankful to the Lord right now that we don’t have a case. It would alter everything we do in the jail if we get a case in here.”

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