DURHAM COUNTY, N.C. (WNCN) – Six employees with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office have tested positive for COVID-19, according to sheriff officials.

The six employees hold various roles at the at the Durham County Detention Center, according to Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead.

“It’s alarming,” Birkhead said. “I have nearly 500 employees and its alarming when any of them are sick.”

Birkhead said a majority of the six employees worked on the first floor of the detention center where intake and booking occurs. He added that one employee does work in the jail directly with some of the inmates.

“All of those inmates who had contact with that employee have tested negative for COVID-19,” Birkhead said.

Birkhead said those employees tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 10 days and are at home following protocol.

He said the Sheriff’s Office has been taking steps to protect the inmates and employees since mid-March.

“We have been cleaning the facility, 3 to 4 times a day with intensive chemicals making sure the surfaces are clean,” Birkhead said.        

Since March, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office has stopped all jail visits, started providing masks for all staff and inmates, and they have required new inmates stay in a classified area for two weeks before placing them in a pod.

“I want everyone to know that we will continue to fight this virus as much as we possibly can,” Birkhead said.

Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president and general counsel for the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association, said most of the sheriff’s offices in North Carolina have zero cases of the coronavirus.

He said their association is providing guidance to these agencies on how to slow the spread, especially when it comes to moving inmates.

“We are working to not transfer inmates back-and-forth between jails and prisons,” Caldwell said. “This is to help stop what’s typically called the community spread.”

The Durham County Health Department is working to notify any possible contacts of the six employees who tested positive for COVID-19.