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Sheriff searching for TB patient after judge orders he be confined

By Walter Geiger Sheriff Brad White and his deputies are on the lookout for Joe Lewis Watkins after Judge Bill Fears ordered Watkins be confined at an emergency commitment hearing Nov. 7 in Lamar superior court. The confinement was sought by the Lamar board of health. According to court documents, Watkins, 53, has tuberculosis and has violated orders to get treatment and remained confined to his home on B Street in Barnesville. ’We’ve been looking for him for two weeks. Part of my job as sheriff is to quarantine TB patients. If we find him, we will have to send him to Clayton County where he will be kept in a negative pressure cell. We do not have that capability at our current jail but we will when and if a new jail is constructed,’ sheriff White said. A negative pressure cell is one with its own ventilation system that prevents TB from being spread to other inmates. Watkins’ illness first came to light last November when he appeared in court in a mask. At the time, sheriff White said he was the first TB positive inmate at the local jail in many, many years. He was back in court Oct. 15 on a charge of interference with government property, sentenced to three years probation and ordered to report to the health department. Instead he vanished. In a court filing, Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo, district health director, confirmed Watkins has TB. He recommended Watkins be confined and strictly monitored to make sure he ‘is not infectious and that he does not develop drug resistant TB’. Dr. Obasanjo also attested to the fact Watkins is non-compliant in that he had, at the time, missed his last 10 doses of medication. If you have any information on the whereabouts of Watkins, contact the sheriff’s office at 770-358-5159.

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