Since shutting down the courthouse and jail to public access early this week, the court system and sheriff’s office are having to make adjustments, Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Thomas said at a County Commission meeting Thursday night.

County government has been put on partial hold since it announced Monday that it would reschedule court dates and reduce public access to departments by appointment-only in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Indiana and across the U.S. The sheriff’s office suspended jail programs and began restricting access to essential personnel last Friday, then announced Wednesday that members of the public were not allowed into the front of the sheriff’s office.

Thomas told commissioners that Circuit and Superior Court would likely start holding initial hearings at different rooms in the sheriff’s office to move cases through and reduce transfers to the courthouse. He also said the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office was reviewing cases, reducing bonds on certain charges and seeing what cases can be brought forward for the same purpose.

Due to overcrowding, the sheriff’s office was also looking at possibly renovating the recreation room to make space for more inmates, he said. A jail inspector will drop by soon to take measurements and see what can be done within state law, Thomas said.

While no cases of COVID-19 have been recorded at the jail or in the county, administrators have taken precaution for weeks, Thomas said. However, 17 female Jefferson County inmates housed at the Crawford County Jail recently came down with a fever, he told Commission.

“We started cleaning on this thing two weeks before people started fearing it coming here, we were already putting our policies and procedures in, and it’s a daily thing ... we’re doing our best to keep it out,” Thomas said Thursday.

Jefferson County Health Department Administrator Tammy Monroe called into the meeting and gave an update on the status of coronavirus here. One resident has been tested and their results came back negative, but the health department was waiting to hear the results of others, she said.

“Just because we do not have any positives does not mean that it’s not in our county,” Monroe said. “I feel pretty confident that there probably is because it’s everywhere, it’s just the lack of testing ... Just keep practicing what you guys have been practicing the past week or so. Just keep it up and please support our local businesses during this time that they are trying to stay open and trying to take care of us. We need to try to keep supporting them as much as we can.”

Troy Morgan, the county’s EMA director, said he had been working to get forms ready with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to apply for funding that would reimburse 75% of the county’s relief expenses if needed. Morgan also pointed out that small businesses in the area could apply for low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration.

As for supplies in dealing with the outbreak, Morgan said he was in conversation with the state about determining Jefferson County’s overall needs and what personal protective wear was already on hand. He forwarded a form to all first responder agencies in the county and told commissioners the most needed supplies, like gloves, N-95 masks and eye protection, were still in short supply.

Morgan reminded the Commission and the public that the Indiana National Guard has been put on standby to help with medical, transportation, logistical and supply chain needs after Gov. Eric Holcomb activated the Guard Tuesday. Morgan said rumors that soldiers would be “patrolling the streets” are unfounded and that their role would be manpower and logistical support.

Morgan also noted that Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s declaration of Level 1 emergency status was the first in its 30-plus year history.

Other developments at Thursday’s meeting:

• Commission President David Bramer said the commission had met with attorneys and drafted a resolution “we feel pretty good about” regarding being a 2nd Amendment sanctuary, but would meet with the public at a later date once things calmed down with COVID-19. The issue went before the county last month when supporters and opponents of the symbolic resolution clashed over whether Jefferson County should join Jennings, Scott, Switzerland and other counties around the state and nation who have adopted similar resolutions.

• The county approved a letter of endorsement for a Safe Haven baby box to be installed at the Jefferson Public Safety Center (EMA/911 building) that would allow mothers to safely drop off a child without questions asked. The county will not fund the roughly $10,000 box, but rather allow it to be installed with private funds and donations from members of North Madison Christian Church and some employees of Madison Precision Products, Morgan said. Once a baby is placed in the dropbox, lights, heat and an alarm are activated so someone can immediately respond. The 911 building was chosen because personnel are present 24 hours a day, Morgan said.

• Bramer said the commission had met with its attorney about recommendations for the two-mile buffer zone between Madison, Hanover and Jefferson County and would have future meetings with the Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals before taking further action. The county has until June to respond after a committee of county and city officials came up with a list of five recommendations earlier this month that included reversing the county’s withdrawal from the zone.

• Commissioners approved three unofficial detours for the road projects that will take place sometime between April and October on SR 62.