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Maine jails face challenges with omicron wave

The York County Jail is discontinuing visits for a few weeks to free up staff.

YORK, Maine — Omicron is surging, and congregate care settings like jails are facing challenges.

York County Sheriff Bill King said the main challenge is staff members testing positive. As of Thursday morning, seven staff members and three residents have tested positive. He said staff members are tested roughly once a week and every inmate is tested before they go into jail.

"Kudos to the staff that are here. They are working double shifts," King said.

Positive COVID cases are why he has put new protocols in place, like discontinuing visits to free up staff. Omicron is also a concern at the Cumberland County Jail.

"I'm also hoping and praying we don't have a blow-up of this based on what I'm seeing in schools, hospitals, and everywhere else," Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said.

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Joyce said eight employees have tested positive and seven others are close contacts. He also said two residents are positive as well.

"It's concerning because we have a staffing issue to begin with. We're really watching this closely," Joyce said.

The Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn said it is seeing a few more positive cases among staff and residents than usual.

King said the jail is still looking to hire a handful of corrections officers and hopes that the omicron surge doesn't stop new applicants from pursuing this career.

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