Coronavirus developments around New England:
Inmates at a Maine jail that has imposed a near-total lockdown because of a coronavirus outbreak and staffing shortages say the conditions are taking a toll on their mental health.
Dustin Beach, one inmate at the Cumberland County Jail, tells The Portland Press Herald that the conditions are “cruel and unusual.” Another, who has been been awaiting trial for two years on armed robbery charges, says it’s driving him “insane.”
“Being locked in a cell all the time, it’s hard to control how you feel sometimes. Emotions come and go as they please,” Zachary Conway said.
Jail administrators recently told officials that inmates are locked in their cells for 23 hours each day, but inmates say they’re being allowed out even less than one hour.
The newspaper says the lockdown has been going on since at least mid-September after nearly two dozen inmates and staff contracted the virus. The county recently declared an emergency at the jail for the first time in its history.
Sheriff Kevin Joyce said Wednesday that the most recent round of testing showed seven staff members and nine inmates are positive for the coronavirus. Twenty-one corrections officers have resigned from the jail this year. It’s budgeted for 129 positions and about 60 staffers are currently working.
The town of St. Johnsbury is forming a committee to help determine how the community can best spend $2.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan money.
The Vermont town has already received some of the money and is expected to receive the rest in about six months.
The committee will make recommendations on how the funding could be spent to offset economic damage brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’d like to have a good solid plan put together over the course of the next few months,” said Town Manager Craig Whitehead. “We gotta remain flexible because we don’t even know yet what all the economic impacts are. We can guess, but we’re gonna have to make sure that we’ve got funds available to address things as they continue to come up.”
Among the eligible projects are public health, services to disproportionately impacted communities, premium pay, infrastructure and revenue replacement.
The funding is coming from the 1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed last March to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the pandemic.
The plan includes $350 billion in pandemic-related aid for state and local governments. Vermont will be receiving more than $1.25 billion.
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