ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Lehigh County officials say 41 of their jail employees are sick at home with COVID-19.
"Because of that we have closed down our corrections center just to move the guards over and yes we are trying to recruit," said Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong.
Armstrong says jails across the country are dealing with difficult staffing shortages because of the COVID crisis.
He says in Lehigh County, guards are being asked to work extra shifts to handle the shortage and help mitigate the spread of the virus among the jail's 731 inmates.
But according to people who either work at the jail or are close to those who do, the situation is more dire. One employee who emailed 69 News but didn't want to be identified by name says the number of COVID positive inmates is higher than the reported 53, that officers are mentally and physically exhausted from working mandatory overtime and are asked to stretch protective gear past recommended use.
But Armstrong says this is not the case. He says jail employees are provided with masks and that safety precautions are strictly enforced.
Armstrong says last week he met with county corrections officials and the union to talk about concerns.
"They did have some legitimate complaints, but they also were very open at that meeting to understand from the other side you know what could be done and how we're doing it," Armstrong said.
Armstrong says the county is meeting with jail officials on a weekly basis to make sure mitigation protocols are followed and safety concerns are quickly addressed.