ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. — The Rockdale County sheriff tells Channel 2 Action News he wasn’t trying to hide his condition when he did not notify the entire office that he’d been ordered into quarantine last month.
Multiple staff and family members told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr that they are angry, because they found out about his quarantine status five days later, following a leaked text message and the Sheriff’s social media post.
The communication, and what Sheriff Eric Levett now says was miscommunication in the days to follow, has created a controversy among deputies, staff members and their families.
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“My family member was infected. He did come in contact with the sheriff at the Sheriff’s Office,” a family member told Carr, asking not to be identified. “Someone, and I thank them for that, felt they needed to let the whole department know that this is our sheriff and we’ve all been around him and we’re taking this stuff home.”
Shortly after Levett recorded an online story time for kids in his office on March 27th, he told Carr he started feeling bad, left the office, went home and called his doctor. The physician immediately placed him a 14-day quarantine , given his fever.
The day after his quarantine orders, Saturday, March 28, Levitt sent a text message to 15 people in his command staff.
“Greetings Everyone. As much as I’d like to keep this as low as we possibly can in an effort to prevent others from spinning this negatively or to cause you not to worry, it’s important that I tell you.”
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The message goes on to say he was feverish, was placed on quarantine, got a coronavirus test referral, would be working from home and hoped the symptoms would pass.
He also emailed elected officials.
“I did not one time tell them to keep it quiet. What I did say is as much as I would like to keep it quiet, basically it’s not anything I can, and the only reason why I said that is I knew how people would twist stuff. Just like this. This is a prime example,” Levett told Carr over the phone.
“That is so selfish of him because had he told everybody and let everyone know, more than just his captains, everyone would be aware. This is a situation where everybody is in danger,” the family member said.
On April 1, the Sheriff explained the situation to the public in an online posting.
It was five days after his quarantine orders and four days after the text message to Levett’s command staff and email to elected officials. It was also after the text message had been posted online.
By April 4th, the sheriff announced he’d tested positive for coronavirus. There are now five confirmed cases in the Sheriff’s Office.
The National Guard went into the Sheriff’s Office and sterilized it as recently as late last week.
“I did not send an email, if I recall correctly, I did not send an email out to the entire Sheriff’s Office because I thought that my human resources person would have done it, which is also my PIO. But when I realized he didn’t send it out, it may have been several days later,” Levett explained. “Nicole, I wasn’t on the computer. I wasn’t on -e-mail. I wasn’t on anything. I wasn’t feeling good. But one of those days when I realized it didn’t say anything, I sent something to him and it got sent out.”
“Do you think there was lost time there when the rest of the department didn’t know?,” Carr asked Levett.
“You mean lost time as far as them not knowing about me?” Levett responded.
“Right, other people who could’ve been exposed,” Carr answered.
“Well let me say it like this, Nicole, and this is accurate information. There may have been lost time as far as the rest of the agency knowing. Not any intentional lost time on my behalf, no,” Levett said. “I think some of us just probably forgot to send it out to all the Sheriff’s Office, but as far as lost time because people was exposed? Absolutely not. Let me make myself clear. Absolutely not. Because when this thing broke out, I basically quarantined myself in my office. The whole time several weeks and did not go around anyone
Levitt added he’d been in contact with employees in the courthouse shortly before feeling ill that Friday, and with the exception of someone he shared an elevator with, he had stayed six feet from them, continuing weeks’ long practice of social distancing.
“I stayed on my floor, in my office several weeks prior to me coming down with the COVID-19,” Levett said.
The sheriff said he’s waiting to be cleared from his physician to return to work soon.