A COVID-19 outbreak at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham has expanded, with 12 inmates and six employees testing positive as of Thursday, the state said.

The Maine Department of Corrections announced an outbreak investigation at the prison Tuesday because three employees had tested positive for the virus. The prison is now conducting universal rapid testing of all inmates and staff.

“We’ve done contact tracing, and we’re still working on trying to identify exactly how it entered into the facility,” Commissioner Randy Liberty said Thursday. “It could have come many different ways, but we work very hard at requiring face masks, requiring enhanced hygiene, social distancing.”

Even though the department has not identified that source, spokeswoman Anna Black said they do not see a connection between the infections in employees and inmates.

When the first employee tested positive last week, the department began testing only employees who were close contacts. At least two people tested positive, and Black said testing expanded among staff in the days that followed.

But no inmates were tested until one developed symptoms of COVID-19 this week. The department identified the dozen new cases as part of contact tracing for that person Wednesday and then launched universal testing in the facility.

Asked why universal testing did not begin earlier, Black said the staff members who tested positive did not have close contact with the inmate population.

The Maine Correctional Center currently incarcerates 341 men and 64 women. The neighboring Southern Maine Woman’s Reentry Center holds 75 women and is included in the universal testing. An estimated 260 employees work in those two facilities.

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