The Penobscot County Jail is pictured in this June 2021 photograph. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Nearly two dozen staff and inmates at the Penobscot County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, Sheriff Troy Morton said Tuesday.

The positive tests in the past week came from 12 inmates and 11 staff at the jail, Morton told county commissioners.

About half of the infected staff were fully vaccinated, Morton told county commissioners. One has had the coronavirus booster shot, he said. 

The sheriff also said that five staff members were unable to work, as they had to quarantine because of close contact with infected individuals.

The jail experienced two outbreaks in the spring. The first was in March when the jail population was just over 100, according to the sheriff.

The population Tuesday in the facility licensed to hold 157 inmates was 193 with another 50 boarded out to other facilities and 185 released on pretrial services contracts.

“This is much more difficult to manage due to the number of inmates in the facility,” he said.

Morton also said that an outbreak at the jail was not surprising given the large number of cases reported in Penobscot County last month.

The outbreak has kept nine inmates who should have been transferred to the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections from being moved. 

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the outbreak at the jail, according to the agency’s spokesperson Robert Long.

The sheriff said that 72 percent of jail staff are fully vaccinated.

Correction: An earlier version of this reported misstated the vaccination status of those who tested positive.