The Knox County jail in Rockland. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine ― More than half of the people incarcerated at the Knox County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 25 of the approximately 40 inmates at the jail have tested positive for the virus, along with nine staff members, according to Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll. These numbers are up significantly from five staff members and two inmates when the outbreak was first reported last week. 

This is the first outbreak the Rockland-based facility has dealt with since the pandemic began.

The jail is following its own protocols and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to prevent the spread of the virus, according to Carroll, but he said combatting the fast-spreading omicron variant is a challenge.

The facility is still accepting new arrestees, but Carroll said they have been working with local police departments and encouraging them to issue summonses when possible to avoid bringing more people into the jail.

The outbreak has worsened an existing staffing crunch at the facility. Before the outbreak, the jail only had 19 of 30 officer positions filled. With nine officers testing positive over the last week, that reduces the number of officers available to provide 24-hour coverage of the facility to just 10.

Some officers who were part of the initial outbreak are reaching the end of their isolation period, Carroll said. Some will be returning to work in the next couple of days.

Another round of testing will be conducted later this week, Carroll said..