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Sheriff says making progress against jail deaths

Pima Supervisors to resume in-person meetings
Posted at 7:50 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 21:50:00-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — COVID concerns dominated Tuesday’s Pima County Supervisors Meeting. They decided to drop virtual meetings and meet again in public, and they addressed COVID issues with the jail.

Pima Supervisors have met in virtual meetings since early in the pandemic. But now they’re about to step out of their tiny virtual boxes and meet in person in their next meeting March 15th.

But before they voted, they debated whether they and the audience would be wearing masks when they get back in their meeting room.

Supervisor Steve Christy said, “The public deserves to be able to address us in person. We will have safety precautions that will be instituted in accordance with the Department of Health that will protect us but coming into a board meeting as a supervisor with a mask on is absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary.”

The board may still require speakers and audience members to mask up based on whether Pima County’s COVID stats rate as high, low, or moderate along CDC guidelines.

Supervisors also voted to drop mask requirements for County buildings as of March 11th.

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos ttalked about COVID and drug overdose deaths in the County Jail. The Sheriff says most recent figures show less than one percent of the jail's inmates are COVID positive—15 compared to a full capacity of more than 2300.

Supervisor Christy asked the Sheriff if he drove off corrections officers and made a staff shortage worse by requiring COVID vaccinations for staff. Nanos said he made the decision to require vaccinations to keep the public safe. He says when an inmate entered the jail COVID free, stayed 30 days behind bars and still died from the virus Nanos concluded unvaccinated officers were bringing the virus from outside.

Sheriff Nanos said, “I have to look at how does that happen with everybody sequestered if you will, except my staff.”

The Sheriff says he’s changing procedures to reduce inmate deaths from fentanyl overdoses. Part of that includes placing the fentanyl antidote Narcan where corrections officers can get and administer it right away without waiting for a medical team to arrive.