I want to start my column this month by hoping everyone in your family is safe and healthy. During these times of uncertainty, it’s important to remember what matters most in our lives. COVID-19 is taking its toll on our nation, state, and county. We at the Sheriff’s Office are considered essential workers which means we don’t get to quarantine at home or self-isolate. Instead, we go to work and do our jobs. It’s our mission and we take it seriously. I wanted to take this time to let you know what the Sheriff’s Office is doing during these challenging times to promote peace, safety, and security in San Luis Obispo County.

First and foremost, I want to let everyone know we have more Deputies and Patrol Units out on the streets and in our communities than ever before. We’ve been able to draw deputies from our other units to add to our already robust staffing in our Patrol Division. I want our citizens to see our patrol units or as we call them our “Black and Whites” out in the neighborhoods. Not only does this make people feel more secure but it also discourages criminal activity. Additionally, we will have a high saturation of patrols targeted in the commercial corridors. The reason for this is not to enforce whether a non-essential business is violating the county order by being open.

That for the most part has been self-regulating. But rather, with so many business shut down and locked up, it’s to dissuade anyone from getting any ideas about taking advantage of the situation. We are also taking precautions in the Jail to protect our inmates and our staff. At the time of this writing, we have had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Jail. We have tested Jail patients for COVID-19 and none have come back positive. The Jail’s protocol for testing, which was developed in conjunction with experts, is to test any person with fever and cough or respiratory symptoms for influenza.

If these results show influenza, then the person is treated for influenza. If the test is negative for influenza, the patient is tested for COVID-19. We are remaining vigilant in screening each inmate entering the Jail, and immediately isolating them if they have any symptoms of illness. The Jail has taken many extra precautions during this time, including extra cleaning of cells and common areas, instructing staff on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and educating to the patients and the inmate population as a whole.

We’ve also instituted a new service for members of the general public to communicate by email with their loved ones who are in custody. There are a number of benefits to this new service. It’s free which means no more postage fees. It’s fast which means the mail gets there instantly versus standard mail. And it’s simple to use. This service is especially beneficial during this time of concern regarding COVID-19 shelter-at-home orders. How does it work? Go to slosheriff.org. Click on “Who’s in Custody.” Use the email address provided. And then follow the directions by providing the inmate’s last name, first name and inmate ID number.

Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office is adding a new feature to its Smart911 system which provides health data to 9-1-1 dispatchers about an individual’s risk for coronavirus. It’s called the “Take Control, Let Us Know” campaign. By signing up for Smart911, individuals can help first responders get the key information they need about every person in their family who may need assistance, not only during this outbreak, but during any emergency. Smart911 is a free service that the Sheriff’s Office began offering last year.

Individuals can create a Smart911 Safety Profile for their household at www.smart911.com or on the Smart911 App that provides critical medical information for those who may be at higher risk of developing a COVID-19 illness. As identified by the CDC, the vulnerable population includes older adults, and those with a history of chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, respiratory conditions, and compromised immune systems. When an individual calls 9-1-1, their Smart911 Safety Profile is automatically displayed, allowing 9-1-1 dispatchers to send emergency response teams to the right location with enhanced medical data. To sign up, visit www.smart911.com or download the Smart911 app in the Apple Store or Google Play.

My hope is that by the time my column is published, there will be a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases and a somewhat return to normalcy, whatever that may be. In the meantime, just know we are here for you. The Sheriff’s Office mission is to provide service, security and safety to the community. And we can do that if we have everyone’s cooperation in being responsible citizens. By working together, we know we will get through this.