Drive-in outdoor church services given green light; video court hearings become part of ‘new normal’ —
Housing inmates in a jail during a pandemic is something most people might not think about. For Sheriff Barry Babb, that is one of the things on his mind. Babb described the measures taken before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, and spoke of the collaboration with the justice system and the work being done by public safety agencies throughout Fayette County.
“We began working on this crisis as far back as late January. We prepared the jail in advance and have had great success so far keeping everyone safe,” Babb explained. “We ran scenarios and developed phases to threats we could see to our service delivery. We looked at everything and pushed everyone to find solutions.
“We knew we would get hit. So far, we have had two confirmed deputies and one detention officer with Covid-19, and one deputy with a false test result who was treated by his physician as a false negative. They are all well and back to work.”
Babb said the jail has had no issues so far, noting the presence of a competent medical team working with incoming inmates who are housed in a 14-day quarantine. That, and having no contact with general jail population is helping keep everyone safe to the best of our ability, he said.
“The biggest takeaway for me is working with our awesome counterparts in the justice system,” said Babb. “Before our nation went into a declaration of a state of emergency I had met personally, or by phone in a couple of cases, with our judges from Superior, State and Magistrate Court to define the new normal. With the help of our Superior Court Clerk and District Attorney, we were ready to get the job done and keep everyone’s constitutional rights intact, and video court went off with a great success. Each and every judge has been great to work with as we are all looking for the right thing to do.”
Along with the other issues addressed, Babb said things were done beforehand that have helped Fayette avoid issues being seen across the country by using persuasion over punishment.
“Fayette is our home and we will all be here when this is over, so we can make it work. For the most part, everyone as a whole has been very understanding,” said Babb. “All you have to do is look at issues like the fight over drive-in church services. I had churches calling me about the legality of such before Easter. We conferred with the Governor’s office to clarify some gray areas and District Attorney (Marie) Broder and I fully discussed the matter before giving a green light to those churches.”
Babb expressed his gratitude to Broder for her help, specifically as Covid-19 arrived during the first few weeks of her becoming District Attorney.
Babb also noted the work of agencies countywide such as fire departments, EMS, police, the county marshal, animal control and 911.
“We have locked arms to serve you all as one team,” Babb said. “It makes me proud to serve and work here.”