ALFRED — York County Manager Greg Zinser said that as of Wednesday, Sept. 9, no employee or inmate “has had to go to the hospital” because of COVID-19 and that as of that date or the evening before, there were no inmates housed in the medical unit at  York County Jail  for symptoms associated with COVID-19. 

That is a bit of good news for the facility, York County government, and the workers and inmates involved, following a significant  outbreak of the virus last month. 

Inmates who tested positive are housed in a so-called COVID unit where they are quarantining and awaiting further testing. Others, who tested negative but may at one point have been housed with those who later tested positive, are housed in another separate unit, according to Sheriff William King.  

The outbreak at York County Jail includes 48 inmates, 16 corrections officers, two county government employees and a support staffer assigned to the jail, King said. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention previously said 17 people who live in staff members’ households had tested positive. 

The jail outbreak is linked to an Aug. 7 wedding and reception in the Millinocket area that has been connected to 161 cases and three deaths across the state as of Thursday, Sept. 10.  A jail employee attended the wedding, according to the Maine CDC. 

A week ago Zinser said the county was undertaking an independent investigation into the outbreak at the jail. 

In an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, Zinser said the investigation, being conducted by a third party not affiliated with the county government, is ongoing. 

He said the investigation, in broad terms, “will look at county protocols, Department of Corrections protocols, CDC guidelines and protocols, how they were viewed, how they were implemented.” 

The investigation will focus solely on the outbreak at the jail, Zinser said. 

York County is following  “all CDC guidelines related to the correctional institution,” he said. 

According to an Aug. 28  Portland Press Herald  story, King said corrections staff and inmates were issued masks in the spring, but they were not required to be worn except by corrections staff working with an inmate suspected of having the virus. 

In a July interview, King said every inmate is tested for coronavirus when being admitted to the facility.  

The first positive test at the jail was recorded in an inmate admitted July 8. 

 “The individual was asymptomatic, and the COVID screening tool did not raise any concerns,” King said at the timeHe said the test came back positive on Thursday, July 9, and the inmate was housed in a single cell. 

“The facility reported the positive case to the Maine CDC and together we initiated our response plan,” which included staff testing, King said. Four staff who had contact with the inmate tested negative at the July incident, he said. 

On Thursday, Zinser said the name of the investigator looking into the August outbreak is not being revealed “to protect the integrity of the investigation.” 

The county is hoping for a quick turnaround, he said, but has not assigned a date for completion of the investigation. 

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