AUBURN — As COVID-19 numbers spike locally and statewide, Androscoggin County Jail — like nursing homes and hospitals — is struggling to contain the spread of the virus among its residential population.

Sheriff Eric Samson said Tuesday that his staff is doing everything possible to see that those arrested are isolated and tested before being allowed to have contact with the general population.

Area law enforcement agencies and prosecutors continue to limit the number of those brought to the jail for booking largely to those charged with violent criminal conduct.

“We’ve had great cooperation there,” he said.

At the time of booking and before they are jailed, those arrested are given a health status survey, have their temperature checked and are asked about exposure to others who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Every inmate is put in a quarantine hold cell and administered a COVID-19 test that is sent to the Maine Crime Lab in Augusta. Results typically come back in three days, Samson said.

If that test is positive, the inmate will stay isolated in quarantine until that inmate exhibits no signs or symptoms of infection for a period of time as recommended by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monitoring is done by the jail’s medical staff before being transferred to the general population.

“We stick with the most conservative protocols because they’ve worked for us,” Samson said.

Inmates who are released on bail while their test results are pending, are later contacted and notified if their tests show they are positive for COVID-19, Samson said.

Any inmate in the general population who asks for a test or exhibits symptoms of the virus will be given a test, he said.

On the staff side, workers who have any symptoms are encouraged not to come to work. Some employees will seek a COVID-19 test through the jail. In that case, they will drive up to the building and be tested while waiting in their vehicles, Samson said.

Others who have possibly been exposed to someone who tested positive will seek a test.

“With over 100 employees, it’s bound to happen,” he said.

Staff are not routinely tested, but that could change if pending federal mandates are put in place, Samson said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to issue its ruling on federal vaccine mandates implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

While testing for all new inmates is required, vaccinations are not, Samson said.

Any inmate who asks to be vaccinated will receive one. The same guidelines apply to staff, Samson said.

Given the transient nature of inmates, Samson said he doesn’t have statistics for the number of vaccinated inmates.

Chief Deputy William Gagne said the number of vaccinated staff varies by job description.

Of the 55 corrections officers at the jail, at least 28, or just over half, are vaccinated, Gagne said.

At least 10 out of 12 dispatchers, or 83%, have gotten at least two of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one Johnson and Johnson shot.

In the patrol, civil and administrative division, at least 25 of 36 workers, or roughly 70%, have been vaccinated, Gagne said.

Some staff may have gotten vaccinated outside of work, so the numbers in each division could be higher than these statistics show, Gagne said.


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