The Capital Judicial Center in Augusta has remained closed this week due to a staffing shortage related to COVID-19. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — Another two employees at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta have tested positive for COVID-19 — and 14 others are in quarantine — as the building remains closed to the public due to the resulting lack of staff.

The courthouse, home to superior and district courts for Kennebec County, closed last week after an employee had tested positive for COVID-19.

Court officials have confirmed two other employees have since tested positive, bringing the total to three.

The courthouse is expected to remain closed to the public all week due to a lack of staff. It is slated to reopen to the public Monday, Dec. 7, according to Amy Quinlan, director of court communications for the state judicial system.

Quinlan said employees who have come in contact with the three individuals who have tested positive have been notified and are quarantining. A total of 14 employees are in quarantine.

She said work spaces at the judicial center have been cleaned, consistent with Center for Disease Control guidelines.

Quinlan said none of the three employees who tested positive for COVID-19 had interactions with the public at the Judicial Center.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention had not opened an outbreak investigation at the Capital Judicial Center. Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine CDC, said the agency would open an outbreak investigation if epidemiological links between at least three cases can be established.

He noted CDC investigators have been increasingly busy with new cases so it takes longer to confirm epidemiological links than it did four to six weeks ago, when daily case counts were much lower.

“More information about a potential outbreak investigation at the (Capital Judicial Center) could become available as investigation of individual cases proceeds,” Long said. “If so, it will be announced. In the meantime, Maine CDC recommends that administrators of public buildings exercise an abundance of caution when making decisions about public access, and that all Maine people wear face coverings, stay at least six feet apart, and avoid non-essential interactions.”

The COVID-19 cases are having an impact beyond the court employees who have tested positive.

Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, said one assistant district attorney in her office had what the CDC considers to be “close contact” with one of the clerks who tested positive at the judicial center.

That lawyer has been working from home, has tested negative for COVID-19 twice and is expected return to the office after 14 days of quarantining.

Maloney said no one else in her office had come within 6 feet of court workers who have tested positive.

“That is the only impact on my office so far,” Maloney said of the lawyer who is quarantining. “The larger impact is the ballooning criminal docket at the court. Every time cases are rescheduled, they are moved to weeks that are already filled with cases.”

Quinlan said people with court dates that were scheduled during the courts’ closure will be contacted to reschedule their cases.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Maine — and nation — has been increasing recently, and the courts have taken additional measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Maloney said the statewide Criminal Justice Commission on Mitigation of Pandemic Impact is to meet Thursday to discuss ways the judicial system can continue to function during shutdowns related to the pandemic.

She said ideas, such as increased use of internet platforms for court hearings, are already being considered.

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