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Seven Jackson County, Alabama, sheriff's office deputies returned to work Friday after concerns they possibly had been exposed over the weekend to COVID-19 while taking a suspect in a Marion County, Tennessee, slaying into custody.
Authorities in Marion County say the suspect still has not shown any symptoms, nor have any officers there.
Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips said Friday that the seven officers — three corrections officers, three road deputies and an investigator — self-isolated themselves after they came in contact with 27-year-old James Hunter Scott, a man sought in the early Sunday slaying of 25-year-old Jasper, Tennessee, resident Corbin Kain Hale.
Hale turned himself in later Sunday at the police department in Bridgeport, Alabama, about 30 miles north of Scottsboro where the sheriff's office and jail are.
"During the booking process he informed us that he had contact with a gentleman that definitely had the virus and our investigators were able to verify that what he was telling us was the truth," Phillips said.
Scott told officers it had been at least 10 days since the coronavirus exposure.
"We contacted our medical advisers and they told us there wasn't really any point in having him tested because the test would take five to seven days to come back, and if he had already been exposed 10 days, to just wait till the four days were up — that would be the 14-day period — and if he does not show any symptoms then we're all OK," Phillips said.
Scott was quarantined in a cell by himself, his clothes were taken, sealed up and placed in a separate cell and all areas were sterilized, Phillips said.
Marion County officers transported Scott from Scottsboro to the jail in Jasper.
"I contacted Bo Burnett at Marion County and asked him to keep a watch on him and let us know if he has any high fever or any kind of medical issues at all," Phillips said. "Our 14 days was up yesterday [Thursday] and they're all back to work today."
Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said Friday that, when Scott was booked on a criminal homicide charge at the jail in Tennessee, he was quarantined in a cell by himself and monitored by medical staff. Scott is being held without bond.
"The nurse has been checking his temperature and there's no symptoms of this virus," Burnett said. No deputies or corrections officers have shown any sign of illness, either, he said.
Both sheriffs said they were working to reduce the chance of contact with COVID-19.
Anyone being booked or otherwise entering the jail in Scottsboro, including the sheriff, has to have their temperature taken before they're allowed in, Phillips said.
Burnett said he's trying to keep the jail population as low as possible and jail staff understand COVID-19 symptoms and the intake protocol.
"I want people to know we're cautious about this. There's been a lot of releases from the jail, trying to keep as few people as we can in the jail just in case somebody does come down with it," the Tennessee sheriff said.
"We've reduced it down to just serious felons, We're staying alert on this," Burnett said. "Of course, with some people there's just nothing you can do but bring them to jail."
Phillips had similar sentiments.
"We're trying not to lock anybody up, but some people just make us," he said.
As far as officials in Jackson County know, Scott was "the only person [arousing COVID-19 concerns] that we know of that we've encountered," Phillips said.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.