AUBURN — Several Androscoggin County government workers have tested positive for COVID-19, sources said Tuesday.

Thomas Reynolds, register of probate for Androscoggin County, said he learned that three or more general county government employees had tested positive in December.

After testing positive for COVID-19, they had gone into quarantine and not entered the county building at Route 4 and Court Street where the county government offices are located, he said.

No one in the probate office has tested positive, he said.

The county offices continue to serve the public, but have limited physical interaction between the public and staff in an effort to reduce the risk of possible transmission by using a drop box, mail, email and other workarounds, he said.

In the office of probate, masks and plexiglas barriers are required and no more than three visitors may be in the office at one time, he said.

The building was closed to the public early on last year after Gov. Janet Mills’ emergency order went into effect in response to the pandemic while continuing to serve the public through other means, but the building was later reopened when it was deemed safe to do so.

“There was so much we didn’t know about the virus at the time” the pandemic was first identified in Maine, Reynolds said.

Governmental agencies within the building, which also houses county courts, have curtailed interagency contact and even departments within the county’s general government have found methods of communicating that are not face-to-face, he said.

Since Reynolds learned that several general county government workers have tested positive for COVID-19, he said he has been tested several times and plans to be tested weekly.

“I think that we can’t get tested enough,” he said. “The more information we have, the better we’re able to contain future outbreaks and protect ourselves and the public.”

Reynolds said he wishes the information about workers testing positive had gotten out to other departments quicker than it did in a way that protected the privacy of those who tested positive, so that “people can take appropriate measures,” he said. “So, I think (county government) can do a better job of that.”

Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson echoed Reynolds’ sentiments.

The “breakdown in communications” and lack of notification of positive tests within general county government and across agencies located in the same building was “disappointing,” Samson said.

Sally A. Christner, vice chairwoman of the Androscoggin County commissioners, said Tuesday that her inquiries into the matter led her to understand there were staggered cases of COVID-19 among employees, but never three or more positive cases within the same time period that would have triggered a Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention outbreak investigation.

A Maine CDC spokesman said Monday that the state had not launched an outbreak investigation into COVID-19 cases at Androscoggin County government offices.

Christner said she is working on developing a policy within county government aimed at responding to employees who express concerns about their health and safety while on the job.

“They need to feel like they have a safe and healthy workplace,” she said, whether the cases have risen to the level of constituting an outbreak or not.

Christner said she is planning to raise the issue at the commissioners’ regular meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening.


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