Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset now has 30 active cases of COVID-19 since the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an outbreak at the facility earlier this week.

So far, approximately 27 residents and three employees have tested positive, according to Maine CDC Spokesperson Robert Long. There are 72 inmates at the jail and 41 employees, Correctional Administrator James Bailey said.

The jail is now on lockdown and diverting arrested individuals to other facilities in York, Androscoggin or Hancock counties. The facility began universal testing for all inmates and staff after discovering the first few positive cases Tuesday. All programming and non-essential services are suspended.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been offered to staff, though only eight-to-10 employees have elected to get it. So far, no inmates at Two Bridges had been vaccinated. “We were still in the planning stages of what that would look like,” Bailey said, though he expects to be discussing vaccinations for inmates with the Maine CDC in the coming days.

This is the first outbreak at the jail since the coronavirus pandemic reached Maine in March 2020, Bailey said. It is believed this outbreak originated from a staff member or contractor.

All inmates are tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and are quarantined before entering the jail’s general population. The facility also tests staff once a month.

All inmates who have tested positive have been isolated and areas of the jail where the positive cases originated are in quarantine, according to a statement from the jail Thursday.

Bailey said one inmate was taken to Mid Coast Hospital Wednesday night for COVID-related symptoms or complications but is back at the jail now. Everyone else has been treated for the illness at the jail as of Thursday afternoon.

Two Bridges serves Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties and also has a contract with Oxford County to house inmates. Bailey said the jail also has inmates from Cumberland and Penobscot counties as well as some federal inmates.

Law enforcement agencies are also being careful about who they take to jail right now.

“We’re not sending anybody to jail unless it’s a very significant crime,” said Sagadahoc County Chief Deputy Brett Strout.

Even then, the sheriff’s office is trying to issue court summonses instead of arrests whenever possible. Bail conditions are often being structured to avoid incarceration through electronic ankle monitors or some other process, Strout said.

The outbreak at Two Bridges follows other recent outbreaks at Maine jails. The Cumberland County Jail in Portland had a COVID-19 outbreak involving 51 inmates and two staff members as reported on April 16 by the Portland Press Herald. The jail was forced to divert newly arrested inmates to York County Jail in Alfred or to Two Bridges Regional Jail.

Other recent outbreaks occurred at the jails in Penobscot and Aroostook counties, the Portland Press Herald reported earlier this week.

 

Staff Writer Kathleen O’Brien contributed to this story.

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