Four more Penobscot County Jail inmates have tested positive for COVID-19
By Judy Harrison, Bangor Daily News Staff
BANGOR — Four more inmates at the Penobscot County Jail tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
The latest cases bring the total number of people infected in the jail’s monthlong outbreak to 26 — 14 inmates and 12 employees and affiliates of the jail, according to Sheriff Troy Morton.
No inmates have tested positive since March 16. Ten inmates have recovered from the disease and the four others remain in isolation, he said.
Meanwhile, operations are returning to normal more than four weeks after the first staff member tested positive on Feb. 22, the sheriff said.
The facility began accepting arrestees again Monday but limited the number of admissions to five per day. The shutdown of the jail’s intake operation forced local law enforcement officers to transport arrestees to facilities in Ellsworth and Belfast or elsewhere. Penobscot County police departments also started allowing arrestees to post bail at police stations, something they normally do at the county jail in Bangor.
Bangor police officers have transported 20 arrestees to jails in other counties since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, said Sgt. Wade Betters, spokesperson for the Bangor police. He said that it was helpful on Wednesday for officers to be able to take a “combative” arrestee directly to the local jail.
“We understand the challenge at PCJ, and are looking forward to when their intake operations return to normal,” he said.
Jail staffing levels are expected to return to normal by Friday after absences among corrections officers and staff who either tested positive for the virus or had to quarantine due to possible exposure to it, Morton said.
Despite the outbreak, Morton said that the facility continues to receive positive feedback from the Maine Department of Corrections and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our correctional staff, medical providers and mental health services have worked very hard to manage the potential risk of COVID-19 entering the facility over the past year,” he said.
In addition to containing the outbreak, the sheriff said that 10 of the 15 current inmates who are eligible for the coronavirus vaccine had received their first shot. The other five declined to be vaccinated.
As of Tuesday morning, 110 inmates were housed in the jail, which is licensed for 157. Another 58 inmates were boarded out at seven county jails throughout the state, and 216 defendants on bail were being supervised by Maine Pretrial Services, a private firm.