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Boone County Jail, MU hospitals boosting disinfectant steps amid virus outbreak


Among its many safety procedures to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Boone County Jail launched a new step Tuesday aimed at killing off traces of the virus that may be lingering on visitors' clothes.

All staff and inmates who enter the facility are required to pass through a small disinfectant tent which sprays the entrant with a mist of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.

On Friday, similar tents were installed at University of Missouri Hospital and Women’s and Children Hospital in Columbia.

"The purpose of the tents at MU Health Care is to disinfect stretchers and medical equipment, not to mist visitors or patients," hospital spokesperson Eric Maze said.

Sgt. Brian Leer with the Boone County Sheriff's Department said the tent is the latest in a long list of safety protocols and changes that have been made in response to the pandemic.

Starting in March, access to the jail facility was limited to essential jail personnel only. Family visitations were suspended in order to limit inmate exposure to the virus.

Staff members are also taking the temperature of everyone who enters the building, screening them for symptoms and exposure to COVID-19.

Inmates are also spaced out within the jail and their movement, recreation and meal times are staggered to avoid congregation of larger groups.

Leer said the construction and layout of the jail allow staff the ability to isolate and quarantine inmates in the event of an infection or suspected infection.

"The safety and well-being of our staff and the inmates is a top priority," Leer said. "Something like this causes a lot of anxiety inside and outside of the jail."

The Boone County Jail houses around 200 inmates.

Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said his jail staff is subjecting all entrants to a screening before entering, including questions about any possible exposure to COVID-19.

"As law enforcement, we're used to dealing with infectious disease," Wheeler said. "It's part of the existing procedure."

Special measures are also being taken in Missouri Department of Corrections facilities.

"We’re screening all offenders who come into our reception and diagnostic centers, isolating offenders who have symptoms of COVID-19, the flu or other communicable diseases, and then testing offenders who have COVID-19 symptoms, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines," DOC spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said.

Regular transfers of inmates between facilities are suspended at all state prisons.

"We are also taking the temperatures of all staff, vendors and anyone else attempting to enter a facility," Pojmann said. "We’ve implemented a strict cleaning and sanitation schedule as well and have put a point person in charge of making sure everyone adheres to the schedule and guidelines and supplies are readily available."

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Joe McLean

Joe reports stories all across mid-Missouri, including our WasteBusters series of reports, and co-anchors ABC 17 News at 9 a.m. with Zara Barker.


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