FARMINGTON — The Franklin County jail has an outbreak of COVID-19 with four employees testing positive for the virus, two last week and two Thursday, Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. said.

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. Submitted photo

Rapid testing was conducted for staff and those in custody last week and again this week. The results from this week’s testing came back Thursday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have been rapid testing everyone and as a result – today we now have four members out,” he said.  “Anything three or over classifies as an outbreak.”

“No one in custody has tested positive,” Nichols said.

The two employees who tested positive Thursday had no symptoms and were considered asymptomatic, he said.

Jail officials have been in contact with Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Franklin County Emergency Management Agency and the Maine Department of Corrections.

A plan was developed and out of an abundance of caution it was decided to shut down the jail for two weeks starting Monday, if everything goes well, Nichols said.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster agreed to house Franklin County’s seven inmates for two weeks, he said. They will be put in a quarantine pod in that jail in Madison. He was still working Thursday to relocate four people from Penobscot County that are being boarded at Franklin’s jail.

“We’re only going to take violent offenders, those people who are are a public safety risk,” Nichols said.  “We have our own quarantine section of the jail.”

Anyone who needs to be in custody will stay in the quarantine area.

If they get arraigned and bail is set and they can make it, they will leave the jail, he said.

For those not considered a public safety risk, he has asked local law enforcement to take them to their own police departments and call in a bail commissioner.

While the jail is closed, the building will be thoroughly decontaminated.

The two weeks will allow staff members to return healthy, Nichols said.

During this time, the jail will be working on minimal staffing.

“We plan on being back to normal operations on Feb. 3,” Nichols said.

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