Officials at the Somerset County Jail in Madison are contending with a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, with 13 inmates and two staff members testing positive. Above, the jail in April 2022. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

MADISON — Thirteen inmates were in isolation and two staff members were staying home amid a COVID-19 outbreak at the Somerset County Jail in Madison, a jail administrator said Thursday.

Michael Pike, the assistant administrator of the jail, said none of the inmates had been hospitalized and all were being treated by the jail’s medical staff for what he described as cold-like symptoms.

The 13 inmates were among 126 being held Thursday at the jail, Pike said.

“They are experiencing mild symptoms, thankfully, and basically what we have been doing to try to stay ahead of it is the inmates are quarantining in their respective cells for five days, per CDC protocols,” Pike said, referring to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sheriff Dale Lancaster told the Somerset County Commissioners on Wednesday of the outbreak. He did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Pike said the outbreak began over the weekend in one of the three men’s housing units. The outbreak is contained within a single unit, Pike said, and inmates have been isolated inside their cells to prevent the virus from spreading.


Masks are optional at the jail for those who have not tested positive, Pike said, while the inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 must wear a mask when they leave their cells.

“We certainly do encourage our staff to get the vaccine on their own, and if they feel comfortable after consulting with their doctor,” Pike said. “We have offered the COVID vaccine to inmates here in the past, but currently there’s no plan to make it mandatory or push it forth.”

The numbers are similar to a COVID-19 outbreak at the jail during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2021. At least 14 inmates tested positive during that outbreak, which was contained to a single unit, Lancaster told the Morning Sentinel at the time.

Several other county jails in Maine that year were contending with similar problems trying to contain the virus.

The jails in Somerset and Kennebec counties limited and reduced their number of inmates to stop the spread. Pike said no such plans were in place with the current outbreak.

A message left Thursday with a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Corrections to see if there are increasing infection numbers in state prisons was not returned.

Pike said the current outbreak is minor compared to previous ones, and it will likely not require the same drastic measures to prevent the virus from spreading further.

“(COVID) basically shut down the jail,” he said. “Everybody was locked in basically 24 hours a day. They weren’t able to have programs. They weren’t able to have visits. We had very minimal staffing because we had huge staffing outages due to COVID.

“This is very mild compared to where we’ve been. It’s a fluid situation, so, of course, it’s always subject to change.”

Comments are no longer available on this story