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

HOULTON, Maine — More than half of the inmates at Aroostook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are a total of 72 cases associated with the jail, with 12 cases among staff members and 60 cases among resident inmates, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said during a Wednesday press briefing. The jail has 101 inmates and 29 staff total at the facility, not including medical personnel.

“Maine CDC has been working very closely with the Maine Department of Corrections as well as leadership of the Aroostook County Jail,” Shah said. “Maine CDC’s portion of this is focused on things like arranging for testing, which some of our public health nurses are on the ground doing. We’re also making sure that staff members and residents at the jail have access to the [personal protection equipment] they need.”

Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen said Wednesday afternoon that the CDC numbers do not reflect the number of active cases and include those who have already recovered from the virus. He also said there were 10 not 12 staff members who had tested positive.

“These are not all new and some have either completed their quarantine or are about to,” Gillen said. “I would like to stress that we are treating those that are symptomatic and they are responding well to their treatment. We are conducting our third round of testing in the facility.”

The CDC first identified the outbreak at the jail on Friday when Gillen said that 12 inmates and two staff members had tested positive. They were testing all staff and inmates every three to five days.

It’s the second such outbreak to occur at the jail, with the first one occurring back in March 2021. That case involved at least 10 inmates who had been exposed, but had occurred before vaccines had been widely available to the general public in Maine.