SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – With 22 deputies and jailers out sick because of COVID-19, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office has struggled to stay staffed and has been requiring some employees to work mandatory overtime in order to meet the state’s minimum jail staffing requirement.

The jail was already short 30 detention staff in a jail that normally employs 200.

Sergeant Larry Christian compared the sheriff’s office’s current struggles to a game of chess, a constant battle to figure out who will go where every day with some patrol deputies having to step in to help at the jail.

“We’re not worried about it, we’re concerned obviously, that the numbers are low and down right now but we know it’s a temporary thing,” Christian said. “We are set to face adversity every day we come to work anyway so this is just a little road bump for us but we’re going to get through it.”

The Longview Fire Department has been experiencing similar struggles with 10 firemen out with COVID and eight out with other illnesses, on top of being short two full-time employees.

“We have got in a situation where we’ve had longer wait time at the emergency rooms so our backup ambulances have been running more calls, and when our backup ambulance is running a call that means we’ve had to shut down a fire engine,” said fire marshall Kevin May.  

May has remained optimistic and has asked the community to be patient as they maneuver through this tough time.

“We just want to instill in the community that the fire department is here and we’re running 24 hours a day just like we have been…we want them to understand that we’re doing all we can to give them the services they deserve,” May said.