Operations at York County Jail are expected to return to normal by next week as the facility recovers from a COVID-19 outbreak that infected about 50 residents and staff members this month.

Since Dec. 13, 11 staff members and 41 residents have tested positive for the virus, according to jail officials. The cases of three staff members and two residents are believed tied to community transmission and not the outbreak at the Alfred jail. No one has been hospitalized.

As of Thursday, 32 residents and nine staff members had recovered, according to jail administrator Nathan Thayer. He said the outbreak is contained to two units, and he expects the facility will return to normal operations next week.

The facility continues to take in new arrivals during the outbreak.

Sheriff Bill King said the jail was able to contain the outbreak to two units by limiting the movement of staff and residents throughout the facility. The lobby is closed and programming is on hold while the jail remains in outbreak status. Staff and residents are required to wear a higher level of PPE, and PCR tests have been done every few days in accordance with CDC guidance, he said.

“We’ve done an outstanding job of isolating the outbreak to two units,” King said.

This is the second outbreak at the York County Jail. Last year, a large outbreak that infected 48 residents, 48 staff members and 16 staff household contacts was connected to a corrections officer who had attended a “super spreader” wedding in Millinocket that sickened an estimated 280 people. After the start of that outbreak, the Portland Press Herald obtained an internal document that showed jail officials flouted public health recommendations about masks by either not allowing them or discouraging their use by residents and corrections officers.

After that outbreak sickened more than half of residents, the jail began requiring masks, screening employees before their shifts and following other recommended protocols. Longtime jail administrator Michael Vitiello was fired over his handling of the outbreak and later filed a lawsuit over his termination.

Other county jails in Maine have also had recent COVID-19 outbreaks. In Cumberland County, jail officials dealt with an outbreak that began in September and stretched into December, with around 80 people connected to the facility testing positive for the virus during that time.

Aroostook County Jail in Houlton, Somerset County Jail in Madison and Two Bridges Jail in Wiscasset experienced outbreaks in the latter part of October, according to the Morning Sentinel.


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