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Law Enforcement Takes Precautions To Protect Officers From Coronavirus

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JOSEPHINE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE WEBPAGE
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The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department has suspended outside visitors to its jail, including inmates’ attorneys.

Sgt. Mike Moran says the visitation restriction will last through the weekend, but he’s not sure if it will continue after Sunday.

It’s among many measures local enforcement agencies are taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among jail inmates and staff.

Both the Jackson and Douglas county sheriff’s departments have temporarily stopped processing concealed handgun licenses because the process involves taking people’s fingerprints.

And the Medford Police Department is encouraging the public to submit detailed crime reports through an online form to minimize officer’s face-to-face contact with cases that could be conducted over the phone, according to Sgt. Mark Cronwell.

Moran notes that it’s a challenge for officers to practice “social distancing” — the act of keeping a barrier between people to prevent coronavirus spread — because the job often entails close contact with people.

“It’s pretty difficult to avoid all the risk for law enforcement — because that’s generally the mission of law enforcement is to go into dangerous situations, even though this is a different kind of situation,” Moran says. “We’re reminding deputies on the road to use extra precautions.”

People who are incarcerated also face challenges when it comes to social distancing since they share jail space and communal areas. Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel says his agency is keeping an eye on jail inmates’ health.

“We are screening for temperature anyone who is brought into the facility,” Daniel says. “We don’t have any active cases that we know of, but we’re preparing for that.”

Daniel says inmates with mild symptoms can be quarantined into a separate cell and monitored by on-site nurses. If they develop serious symptoms, they’ll be transferred to the nearby hospital.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.