County jail using new sanitation machine to fight virus

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The Jackson County Jail is utilizing a new weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

The 1140 Sentry from Skytron is a machine typically used to sanitize hospital surgery rooms, so how did it end up at a jail?

Jail Commander Chris Everhart said the product was presented to him by a Skytron representative during a recent conference. The company wanted to test the potential application of the machine with jails, so Everhart was given one to use in the local jail on a trial basis.

While the technology is far more advanced than what is typically seen in jails, Everhart provided a simple explanation for how the machine works.

“It’s a machine that basically uses ultraviolet lights to kill bacteria and germs,” he said.

Everhart brought the machine to the jail a few months ago before COVID-19 seemingly took over the world. While the machine already was producing results, the timing worked out perfectly.{p dir=”ltr”}“We started noticing a lot of health benefits for the inmates and the staff. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We had the machine on loan, sort of a ‘use it and tell us how you like it’ kind of thing, and coincidentally, it was a great time to have it,” Everhart said. “It really worked out perfect for us to have the machine during the COVID-19 pandemic.”{p dir=”ltr”}Everhart said the machine will save the jail money that would typically be spent on cleaning supplies like disinfectant wipes and sprays, which previously were used to clean the facility.{p dir=”ltr”}The machine also works quickly. Everhart said smaller cells can be cleaned in 12 to 14 minutes, while larger general population areas will require multiple runs of the machine, taking around two hours total.{p dir=”ltr”}Also, since the machine works independently, it frees staff who would normally be cleaning to take on other tasks while the machine does the work.{p dir=”ltr”}“Let’s say I clear out a holding cell,” Everhart said. “I can just roll the machine into that holding cell. It takes less than a minute to get the machine operational, and then I walk away and I can do another task. I can do other stuff, and the machine has a remote that will tell me when it’s done.”{p dir=”ltr”}Everhart also recalled a recent incident where the machine helped them fend off what may have been the COVID-19 virus in the lobby of the jail.{p dir=”ltr”}”We had an incident where a gentleman came into our lobby. He was coughing, hacking, short of breath,” he said. “He came in to serve time, but we turned him away to receive medical treatment. They advised him that he had every red flag and symptom. They advised him to quarantine for 14 days.”{p dir=”ltr”}Despite doctor’s recommendations, the individual returned back to the jail, creating even more risk.{p dir=”ltr”}”He came back to the jail lobby to tell us that, so we used the machine in the lobby after that, not only to clean the surfaces but also the air, killing the germs in the air,” Everhart said. “I don’t know that he was COVID-19 positive, but there was a chance.”{p dir=”ltr”}This machine does more than just sanitize surfaces. Everhart said it will fight the flu, help prevent employees from becoming ill and having to use their sick time and create a cleaner environment for inmates with serious illnesses like cancer.{p dir=”ltr”}“It also has health benefits as far as in the winter months, everybody worries about the flu and just your typical other germs in a jail setting,” he said. “I think staff will spend less time of work using sick time, the inmates will be in a healthier, cleaner environment.{p dir=”ltr”}”Also, we have some inmates that have had cancer. Well, if that inmate started doing chemotherapy treatments, I can sterilize their cell to surgery room standards and give them a much cleaner environment.”{p dir=”ltr”}Sheriff Rick Meyer said his department has a responsibility to protect the inmates, and thus far, he feels the machine has done just that since no inmates have shown or reported any symptoms of COVID-19.{p dir=”ltr”}”What we can say is no inmate has shown any symptoms of having the virus since we came out,” he said. “Really, very few employees have been sick. We have to assume that using that machine has really been helping keep the virus out of here.”{p dir=”ltr”}As far as maintenance goes for the machine, Everhart said it comes with a three-year warranty in case it were to have any issues. The only required maintenance otherwise is the ultraviolent light bulbs will need to be replaced every two or three years depending on use. A replacement bulb will typically cost around $300, he said.{p dir=”ltr”}During a recent meeting, the Jackson County Council provided the jail with a letter of intent to purchase a machine of their own for permanent use in the facility. The machine will cost $39,000 with the costs being split between the jail’s commissary fund ($10,000) and the county ($29,000).{p dir=”ltr”}The cost of the machine could be reimbursed to the county through grants or by programs conducted by the federal government that aim to help counties recover from health-related spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.