About a dozen inmates and staff at Two Bridges Jail in Wiscasset have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past two days as the pandemic continues to surge across the state and country.

Between 10-12 people have tested positive using rapid COVID-19 tests since Tuesday, according to Two Bridges Correctional Administrator James Bailey. The jail was waiting for results of PCR tests that can uncover trace amounts of virus DNA.

Of those who tested positive, nine employees were out sick, said Bailey. Two Bridges has 39 employees and, as of Thursday, 115 inmates.

Bailey suspects the virus was introduced to the jail by an employee, and it spread quickly. On Monday only two people, both staff members, had tested positive and the jail had no cases on Sunday.

Neither inmates nor employees are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but the jail does have a “soft mandate” in place for employees. The directive states employees must fill out forms indicating whether they’ve been vaccinated and if not, why. The jail will not compensate unvaccinated employees for time spent outside work due to COVID-19 if they refused the vaccine.

About 65% of the jail’s employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, but Bailey said he didn’t know how many inmates were vaccinated.

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Inmates are also tested for COVID-19 and undergo a 14-day quarantine to ensure they’re healthy when they first enter the jail. COVID-19 vaccines are offered to all inmates when they arrive, said Bailey.

Inmates who test positive are isolated until they recover, Bailey said.

Meanwhile, the facility continues to require facemasks and physical distancing to prevent the spreading the virus.

Bailey closed the jail to the public on Wednesday when cases began cropping up, and all programming, in-person visitors and non-essential services are suspended.

Bailey said Two Bridges isn’t diverting new inmates to other facilities, “because I don’t know where they’d go – other facilities are in similar situations.”

Two Bridges, however, will only take those arrested for violent crimes such as assault.

“If we were in normal circumstances, a crime is a crime and we would take anyone,” said Bailey.

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