The Aroostook County Jail in Houlton. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday that the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton is currently facing its second outbreak of COVID-19 cases, with 12 inmates and two correctional staff testing positive for the virus.

The first outbreak at the prison occurred last March, which shut down most services and a temporary halt to taking in new prisoners.

Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen said there were no plans for a shutdown of services this time, but acknowledged that the prison was stretched for resources when it came to combating the outbreak.

“It’s just crazy. It’s such a strain on an already strained jail,” said Gillen. “We’ve got staff shortages, we’re overpopulated and we have an old jail, and these are all concerns that we have right now.”

In order to treat the outbreak, the jail will separate positive inmates from those who test negative, and all staff and inmates will be tested every three to five days. Once everyone has tested negative twice in succession, the jail will be cleared to resume normal protocols.

Masks are also required for inmates at all times, and corrections staff also must wear masks and gloves as well.

Gillen said the required successive testing means outbreak measures at the jail could continue for some time. The testing and PPE expenses also add to the jail’s financial burden, he said.

“We’re already shorthanded, and we have to come up with this PPE,” he said. “N95 masks aren’t free. Gloves aren’t free.”

Aroostook’s jail is by no means the only county jail having to deal with outbreaks at this moment. According to the Maine CDC, the Penobscot County Jail also saw a high number of cases, surpassing numbers from the York County jail outbreak which had occurred last year.