NASHVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – They’re housed in close proximity for extended periods of time, yet detention centers aren’t considered long-term care facilities under state guidelines. That means detention center employees and inmates are still not eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some county health departments are interpreting the state’s guidelines differently, choosing to vaccinate detention center officers.
“My detention facility has COVIDin it right now,” Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said.
Stone called COVID-19 an ongoing issue. He showed CBS 17 around his detention center back in 2019 for another story. It has no private cells. Instead, inmates are housed in large rooms, sleeping on bunk beds.
“Obviously, you’re not going to have social distancing in the pod settings we have,” he explained.
Then consider the detention center officers, those charged with keeping order. Stone said they should have the chance to get vaccinated, and in Nash County they have.
“If everyone goes down in there, who’s going to come in and replace them,” Stone said.
“There’s people in and out of that jail all day long and we had to fight that thing,” Franklin County Sheriff Kent Winstead said.
Winstead said his detention center officers haven’t had that opportunity. Neither have Wake County’s.
CBS 17 reached out to NCDHHS, hoping to find out what’s behind the discrepancy.
“Frontline essential workers working in public safety are included in Group 3. Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated in an earlier phase due to age (65+), medical condition or job function will be eligible for vaccination in Group 4,” NCDHHS public information officer Catie Armstrong wrote.
“It’s a lot of them that are moved around in and out… We don’t have the facilities to quarantine them 10 or 12 days,” Winstead said.
“It’s obvious that law enforcement, detention officers, correctional officers are frontline people,” Stone said.
Stone said he hoped the state would put out clearer guidance so that every county was on the same page. He said he’s requested that his inmates get a shot, but that it still hasn’t happened.