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OPD Chief McCutchen managing Oxford from precautionary COVID-19 quarantine

Jeff McCutchen left town a few weeks ago with his family for what was supposed to be a fun spring break trip to Spain, but it quickly turned into much more.

Oxford’s chief of police was with his daughter on a soccer trip to Barcelona when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began its slow crawl across the globe, bringing the entire world to a standstill that is still ongoing.

For McCutchen and everyone else in his party, they did not have a full sense of what was happening throughout the week until a couple days were left in their trip.

“It was business as usual,” McCutchen said of Barcelona and its residents. “Restaurants were full, people were out and about. Even up until, 3 a.m. (in Spain) on (March 12) when President Trump made his announcement and everyone kind of began to scramble to see how we could get out of the country, if we could.”

After looking at the logistics of ending their trip early – the same trip Governor Tate Reeves was on with his daughter – McCutchen and his family decided they would just wait and leave on Saturday, as they’d originally planned.

Their trip back to Oxford stayed the same, leaving Barcelona and flying to Paris, then to Atlanta and eventually back to Memphis. Once they landed back in the United States, McCutchen said they had to stay on the plane and were given instructions by the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Customs, and then took part in a quick screening before heading to Memphis.

Once they returned to Oxford, McCutchen and his family was put on a mandatory 14-day quarantine. None of them showed any symptoms and have stayed healthy throughout, as of Tuesday. McCutchen said he and his family are quarantined until Saturday night, when they will take their temperatures one last time. If none of them have a fever or show symptoms, they will be allowed to end their lockdown.

Due to that, McCutchen has been left to manage the Oxford Police Department and oversee Oxford’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from his home. Having already initiated a chain of command regarding his absence during spring break, that plan has stayed in place.

“We’re very fortunate to have a good team,” McCutchen said. “Captain (Alan) Ivy has run point for us during the week of spring break. He kind of became our leader, our voice on the ground. When it was pretty obvious we were going to be quarantined for 14 days, he and I spoke while I was coming back from Spain, and I just told him, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ One of our things that I’m proud of with our group is a lot of communication. Either by email or calls or text, everyone’s keeping the ball rolling.”

McCutchen noted the call volume into OPD is low, due to residents being asked to stay at home for the next couple weeks, which has helped. Officers are patrolling on their own in keeping with social distancing guidelines and are implementing a series of cleaning protocols before each shift begins.

On Monday, OPD spent the day training several local businesses how to properly comply with the curbside service mandate placed by the Board of Aldermen on Sunday.

“It’s just that unknown,” McCutchen said. “Everyone is trying to take precautions, and also look at it from different angles of, ‘Okay, if this happens then what’s our next play?’ You always want to put the ‘what if’ of the, “Man, this could continue on,’ or be a little more difficult if the cases continue to rise. So, we look at what plans we need to put in place down the road if this increases.”

Currently, the City of Oxford has required all non-essential businesses to be closed to the public through at least April 6.