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COVID-19 Spread Through York County Jail Where Staff Weren’t Screened, Didn’t Wear Masks

Troy R. Bennett
The York County Jail in Alfred.

Before COVID-19 swept through the York County Jail in what has now become the largest outbreak of the disease in a Maine correctional facility, its management didn’t require inmates or staff to wear protective face coverings.Staff also weren’t regularly required to have their temperatures taken when they entered the jail, and now that the disease has run rampant, it’s not clear that the Alfred facility has anywhere else to send newly arrested inmates.

Those are among the factors that state corrections officials now say may have contributed to an outbreak that has infected at least 85 people connected to the lock-up, including 46 inmates, 22 staff and 17 of their household members, according to the latest state and county figures.

That’s despite the fact that the Maine Department of Corrections and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention have been educating county sheriffs on proper public health protocols throughout the pandemic. There have been a few other small clusters of COVID-19 at Maine correctional facilities, but none that have produced more than a handful of cases.

After learning of the poor infection control practices at facilities including the York County Jail, Liberty said, he became “concerned” and saw a need for the state to intervene to ensure that other county facilities weren’t making the same mistakes.

In addition, Liberty said he’s learned that jail staff were not required to have their temperatures taken or undergo additional screening every time they entered the facility, as Maine health officials recommend for all congregate living settings, given the risk that employees can become infected out in the community and bring the virus back to their workplace.