ELLSWORTH — The coronavirus outbreak at the York County Jail, where until recently the sheriff didn’t mandate that his staff wear masks, has local residents wondering how safe the Hancock County Jail is.
The York County Jail has had the largest outbreak of COVID-19 in a Maine correctional facility. The virus spread into the community. It started when a corrections officer became infected at a wedding in Millinocket Aug. 7.
“All of us at the Hancock County Jail take the threat of this virus very seriously,” said Jail Administrator Timothy Richardson. “This is a topic of conversation every day as we review our inventory of personal protective equipment for the jail staff and residents of the facility. All of us at the Hancock County Jail are adjusting daily to this virus and will continue this practice.”
“We have limited all entry into the jail, including arresting officers and off-duty staff,” Richardson said. Anyone entering the jail must have their temperature taken, he said. Anyone with an elevated temperature isn’t allowed in the facility until “cleared medically.”
“The Hancock County Jail also requires all employees that travel to locations not approved by the Maine Center for Disease Control to provide a negative result to a COVID test prior to returning to duty,” Richardson said.
“When an arrestee enters the facility, they are asked to wear a mask,” Richardson said. “Hancock County Jail staff wear masks while interacting with new arrestees and quarantined inmates. All arrestees that are held in the facility are quarantined under the guidance of the jail’s medical staff.”
“When this all began six months ago, I did not know where this would take us, and today we are in the same situation,” Richardson said. “We do not know what tomorrow will bring, but Hancock County Jail has implemented policies to protect the resident population and the staff.”
Richardson made the decision back in March to suspend visits and all “non-mandated programming.”
“This was a very difficult decision to make,” the jail administrator said. “We understand the importance of maintaining contact with friends, family and continuance of programming. The mandated programs have continued and are being offered by video or non-contact format.”
Court appearances, including bail hearings, are also being held remotely by video. “The local attorneys have also assisted us by meeting with their clients by using the non-contact area.”
“As the jail administrator, you wonder if you are making the right decision when considering this virus,” Richardson said. “I believe the safety practices we have implemented are working well for the Hancock County Jail.”