We continue our series of discussions with instructors for a University of Arkansas Honors forum taking place later this month called Pandemic. Today, we have a conversation with Dr. Mark Thomas, the vice president and medical director of Population Health at Washington Regional Medical Center. The Pandemic forum will take place May 11 to 22. The Honors College will provide free public access to the forum by posting a recording of each class online.
As local law enforcement has adjusted to new restrictions and guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a marked drop in the number of people who are arrested and transported to county jails. The outbreak has also caused a noticeable shift in the types of crimes that are being committed. Despite the operational changes, authorites still want people to know they continue to respond to calls and are not turning a blind eye to crime.
This week, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder announced he plans to end the sheriff's office's participation in the federal 287(g) program, which creates partnerships between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies. Helder says he believes the program has been effective in the area, but because of the coronavirus outbreak his employees' time and energy need to be directed elsewhere.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office is working with the prosecutor's office to release inmates who are accused of non-violent crimes and at higher risk of complications from the coronavirus. So far, the jail has released about 150 people.
Dr. Jason McKinney is the director of critical care at Mercy Hospital in Northwest Arkansas. He specializes in pulmonology and is part of a group of doctors treating COVID-19 patients. We asked McKinney to give us his perspective on what's happening on the ground based on his experiences working on the frontlines of the pandemic.