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Staff file photo by Ben Benton / The DeKalb County, Ala., Sheriff's Office in Fort Payne, Ala., is where two inmates were recently confirmed with coronavirus. Both inmates have since been kept under quarantine and are no longer showing symptoms.

Authorities in DeKalb County, Alabama, say two inmates with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are recovering or have recovered as jail officials keep watch for any new cases to crop up.

"Until a couple of weeks ago we didn't have any [coronavirus cases] in the jail," DeKalb County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Brad Gregg said Monday. "The inmates were on the work crew, and they started showing symptoms, so we tested them and they tested positive.

"They're the only ones that have shown any symptoms, and they're the only ones who have tested positive," Gregg said.

The male prisoners are cellmates who served on the work crew together, he said.

"They were in close contact with each other, so as soon as we found out, we got them away from everybody pretty quick," Gregg said.

The two inmates were quarantined over the past couple of weeks and are showing no symptoms now, he said.

Sheriff's office spokesman Tyler Pruett said DeKalb County's current jail population on Monday stood at 260 inmates with a capacity for 325, leaving 65 open beds, if needed.

In late March and early April, rural county jails across the Chattanooga region in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama started cutting back on inmate populations to make room for social distancing and space for quarantining to help slow the spread of the virus. Jails in some cases released non-violent inmates and began citing people for lesser crimes rather than taking them to jail.

(READ MORE: Marijuana edibles packaged as candy seized in DeKalb County, Alabama)

Meanwhile, some county lock ups — like the ones in Bradley, Coffee and Hamilton in Southeast Tennessee and the jail in Chattooga County, Georgia — have experienced outbreaks.

Since April in Hamilton County, at least 70 inmates and personnel have tested positive for the virus, while nearly all 15 jail staff members at the Chattooga County Jail were confirmed with coronavirus in July or were out sick with symptoms. Confirmed cases at the Coffee County, Tennessee, jail in June arose from two corrections officers who shared an apartment. Since sometime in June, Bradley County had 34 inmates and 15 jail staff who tested positive for COVID-19 and since have recovered from the virus.

Gregg said it was inevitable.

"It was bound to happen," Gregg said. He said jail officials aren't sure how the two inmates contracted the virus but figure they touched something while on the work detail that had been touched by someone with the virus.

Other inmates, including federal inmates DeKalb holds on a long-term basis, are not believed to have been exposed to the two sick inmates at any time, and so far none have shown any symptoms, Gregg said.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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Staff file photo by Ben Benton / The DeKalb County, Ala., Sheriff's Office in Fort Payne, Ala., is where two inmates were recently confirmed with coronavirus. Both inmates have since been kept under quarantine and are no longer showing symptoms.

 

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