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COVID outbreak forces 'state of emergency' at the Cumberland County Jail

Sheriff Kevin Joyce said a COVID surge is making it near impossible to cover shifts at the Cumberland County Jail.

PORTLAND, Maine — A state of emergency has been declared at the Cumberland County Jail as it deals with a COVID outbreak and severe staffing shortages. 

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce told county commissioners Wednesday that 13 staff members and 10 inmates currently have COVID-19. 

Joyce said the jail is currently in lockdown.

According to Joyce, jail staff has been forced to open more pods. The problem with that, according to Joyce, is more pods require more staff. 

RELATED: COVID outbreak hits Cumberland County Jail

Joyce told commissioners he has 67 vacancies to fill. The staffing challenges are forcing Joyce and his command staff to fill shifts at the jail. 

"The mission is to keep the place safe, secure, make sure inmates are treated humanely, make sure the staff – who are tired, worn out, probably burned out – get some time to relax and rest," Joyce said. "And if this is going to go on another three weeks, at what point do we say enough is enough for these people? So that we can pull back and run as [normally] as we should."

Joyce said all new prisoners are being sent to York County Jail and Two Bridges Jail in Wiscasset. 

No inmates are being transferred out of Cumberland County in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

After Joyce's presentation, Cumberland County Commissioners voted and declared the state of emergency. That move allows Joyce to move staff members without county officials' approval.