ROCKLAND — The Knox County Jail is experiencing its first outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine nearly two years ago.

Five staff members and two inmates have tested positive for the virus since the weekend, Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll said Tuesday, Jan. 18. The remainder of the staff and inmates have been tested and results are expected to be available Wednesday, the sheriff said.

As a result, the jail asked local police agencies to be mindful of who they bring to the corrections facility, he said. That directive has been in place for months, but he said agencies have asked to be even more mindful in the wake of the outbreak. Police departments have cooperated, he added.

People who are considered a public safety risk will be incarcerated, the sheriff said. Knox County has an agreement with the Two Bridges Jail to take inmates if necessary, Carroll said.

The inmates who have tested positive are being isolated.

The sheriff said he feels fortunate this is the first outbreak at the jail since the pandemic began 22 months ago. The staff has done a great job of keeping the facility clean and taking the precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Omicron variant is far more contagious than the earlier versions of the virus.