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Maine jails try to stop virus; nursing home plan rejected

September 30, 2020 GMT

ALFRED, Maine (AP) — Maine’s county jails are implementing stricter precautions in response to an outbreak at a jail in the southern part of the state, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections said Wednesday.

One of the largest outbreaks to hit the state has centered around the York County Jail in Alfred. State officials have said an employee of that jail attended a wedding in northern Maine where the virus spread and then returned to work.

A state inspection later found that mask use and screening were not universal at the state’s 15 county jails. All inmates and staff members are now required to wear masks, corrections commissioner Randall Liberty said. Screening staff members for symptoms is now also universal, he said.

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“They are working diligently to correct those deficiencies,” Liberty said. “We’ve had really good participation and collaboration with the sheriffs.”

The state inspection also found that most jails lacked diversion plans about where to send inmates in case of an outbreak. Liberty said those plans are now being developed and implemented.

In other news related to the virus in Maine:

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NURSING HOME PLAN

A nursing home that is the site of a coronavirus outbreak that has killed seven people has submitted a corrective plan, but state authorities said Wednesday that it’s not enough.

The outbreak at Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison is connected to a larger outbreak at a northern Maine wedding and reception. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has said a staff member at the Madison facility failed a coronavirus screening questionnaire and was still allowed to work.

A department spokeswoman told the Morning Sentinel on Wednesday that the facility’s plan for correction “does not meet all of the requirements for approval.” The spokeswoman told the Sentinel that the state Division of Licensing and Certification is ”in communication with the facility to gather more information and support their submission of a revised plan.”

The outbreak at Maplecrest also sickened at least 39 people. North Country Associates, which oversees Maplecrest, did not respond to a request for comment from the Sentinel.

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THE NUMBERS

An additional 59 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state, the Maine CDC said Wednesday.

The total number of confirmed cases is more than 5,300, the Maine CDC said. The number of deaths remained at 141. The average number of new cases per day was about 33, which was slightly less than it was a week ago.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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CIVIL EMERGENCY

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills extended Maine’s “state of civil emergency order” for another 30 days on Wednesday. The order allows the state to “deploy all available tools to respond to and contain COVID-19,” the governor’s office said.

“As Maine enters the colder months and more activities move indoors, it is more important than ever to maintain the critical public health measures that have kept us all safe,” Mills said.