An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Cumberland County Jail that began in September has roared back, with 50 infections among the inmates and staff, including one resident who is hospitalized.

Forty-nine inmates had active infections as of Thursday, Jail Administrator Maj. Timothy Kortes said. Four corrections officers were isolating at home after testing positive, and three others were symptomatic and out of work as they awaited test results.

Some inmates were nearing the end of the 10-day quarantine period and soon will be able to return to the general population from a separate housing unit, Kortes said. He did not say how many might be cleared to do so by Friday and more infections could emerge as testing continues.

Kortes did not provide details about the condition of the hospitalized inmate, but said that person was being held pre-trial and had not been convicted. Kortes did not immediately respond to questions about when the hospitalized person was transferred out of the jail.

There were 257 people incarcerated at the jail as of Thursday.

“The (Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has been continually briefed on the COVID outbreak since it began,” Kortes wrote in an email. “The general population housing units are at normal operation and inmates have been provided (personal protective equipment). Facility-wide cleaning is ongoing daily.”


Corrections officers undergo daily temperature checks and questioning about recent possible exposure, Kortes said. Inmates are tested at least weekly, and every day if they report symptoms.

The Maine CDC opened its investigation of the jail outbreak in September, when a group of positive cases forced the county to declare a state of emergency to keep the facility staffed and open.

To slow the spread of the disease, new arrivals at the jail initially are held in a quarantine housing unit to make sure that they are not sick with COVID before they are moved to general population housing. Another unit has been established to house people who test positive, Kortes said.

The September outbreak nearly shut the jail temporarily. A years-long struggle to keep the facility staffed coincided with infections, forcing the corrections officers who remained to work onerous overtime schedules.

After the emergency was declared, Sheriff Kevin Joyce and other high-ranking officers pitched in to cover line shifts at the jail.

The definition of an outbreak has changed since September. At that time, an outbreak was defined as any cluster of three or more linked cases, confirmed by a PCR test, at a congregate living facility. The outbreak was considered over if the facility went 28 straight days without a new infection.

When the omicron variant took hold at the end of last year, the CDC changed its outbreak definition to five linked cases. Researchers believe omicron is more easily transmitted than earlier strains and is less likely to cause life-threatening disease, especially for people who are vaccinated and have received a booster shot.

“The Cumberland County Jail administration has been a strong partner despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 in general, and omicron in particular,” Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long wrote in an email. “They have kept lines of communication open and implemented isolation, quarantine and testing protocols designed to limit spread of the virus at a time when Maine was seeing more opportunistic variants, namely delta and omicron.”

At the start of the outbreak in the fall, jail administrators locked the facility down, a move criticized as inhumane by inmates, who were kept in their cells nearly around the clock for days on end. After the outcry, jail administrators revised the lockdown procedures and eased restrictions.

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