A corrections officer at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta walks past a razor-wired fence Nov. 29. The facility at 115 State St. is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak among inmates and staff members. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — In the second week of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta, 32 people have tested positive for the disease, which is triple the number officials reported at the start of the outbreak.

Sheriff Ken Mason said beginning Thursday, jail employees are to start returning to work and inmates will start being released from quarantine blocks back into the jail’s general population.

Of the 32 people testing positive, 20 are inmates and 12 are staff members. This is the first outbreak at the jail since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, and Mason told the Kennebec County Commissioners on Tuesday that future outbreaks are possible.

COVID-19 infections have happened at the jail. In February, a male inmate tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in a quarantine block. That was the second case of an inmate with COVID-19. Earlier, a woman who had tested positive had been brought to the jail, but because she had not been charged with a serious crime, she did not remain there.

Following the outbreak notification Nov. 27, Mason informed law enforcement agencies across Kennebec County the jail would impose limits on the number of inmates. He said at the time that “fewer than 10” people had tested positive.

“It’s really, really helping us, and I am so grateful for that,” Mason said at Tuesday’s meeting of the County Commissioners.

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As of  Tuesday, 126 inmates were being held at the jail, which has a capacity of 172. Mason said those accused of violent crimes or arrested for drug crimes are still being brought to the jail at 115 State St.

Mason said others arrested could be brought to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, which could result in paying boarding fees.

Patsy Crockett, chairwoman of the commissioners, said the jail had done a good job keeping COVID-19 out of the jail for this long.

Mason said vaccinations are continuing to be offered to inmates at the jail, and if they are released before receiving their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, they are welcome to return for the second shot. Booster shots are expected Friday.

About 80% of the jail’s staff members are vaccinated, he said.

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