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COVID outbreak at Penobscot County Jail makes staffing shortage worse

Morton said there are currently 193 inmates at the jail. 12 of them have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in isolation.

BANGOR, Maine — Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said his jail is facing another COVID-19 outbreak and it is impacting an already serious staffing shortage.

At Tuesday’s Penobscot County Commissioners meeting, Sheriff Morton updated commissioners on the outbreak including the number of inmates and several staff members affected.

Morton said there are currently 193 inmates at the jail. 12 of them have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in isolation. Two of those, he said, were found in the quarantine area which is used for new inmates to help with the spread of the virus.

In addition, Morton said 16 staff members have been impacted by the outbreak. 

"We do have 11 staff members that tested positive and 5 more that are out because of close contact that didn’t test positive," said Morton. 

"Were they vaccinated or not vaccinated," Commissioner Peter Baldacci asked.

"That’s one of the most discouraging things that we see, the amount of breakthrough cases," the sheriff said. "More than half of the cases that we have that are positive or actually vaccinated people, and in one case, the person is not only vaccinated but had the boost."

Morton said plans have been put into place which includes using support staff and forced overtime to meet minimum staffing levels. 

This is the second outbreak at the Penobscot County jail. The first one occurred last March.

Morton said the department is doing more cleaning and is in close contact with the Maine Department of Corrections and the Maine CDC to deal with the outbreak.