Maine starting to prep for temporary coronavirus treatment sites in up to 4 regions

Gerald Herbert | AP
Gerald Herbert | AP
A temporary hospital has been set up in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, as an overflow for local hospitals that are reaching capacity, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in New Orleans, Saturday, April 4, 2020. Maine may see its first similar unit by early next week.
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The director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control said Monday that temporary medical units to treat people for the new coronavirus could be in four regions of the state as planning for southern and northern units continue.
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AUGUSTA, Maine — The director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control said Monday that temporary medical units to treat people for the new coronavirus could be in four regions of the state as planning for southern and northern units continue.

Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said the state is working on plans to launch makeshift units in southern and northern Maine. At the same time, it is workshopping plans for units in the eastern and western parts of the state. He didn’t specify potential locations.

Those units would contain roughly 50 stations for treatment and be part of a larger network of alternative care sites the CDC will be managing. How many stations a unit has could differ “based on different parts of the state, and what they are experiencing at any one time,” Shah said. Additional information is expected to be released Tuesday.

Shah said late last week that the state could expect to see temporary units within the next week-and-a-half. Those units would be initially geared toward people exhibiting symptoms of the virus to get them quickly assessed. Shah also said the state is developing plans for a possible full-scale external hospital.

The units will include cots and other equipment needed to treat a patient, and workers will need personal protective equipment, which is in short supply around the country. Units that provide acute care could need items including medication, oxygen and ventilators, the Maine Emergency Management Agency said last week.

Similar temporary facilities have been created in hard-hit areas across the country. In those places — including New York City — hospital systems are overwhelmed by patients requiring intensive care. They are sometimes placed in already existing structures or near hospitals to expand capacity.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency said last week that a unit would likely be placed in southern Maine. The majority of cases are in Cumberland and York counties, where the Maine CDC has confirmed community transmission of the virus, meaning it is spreading between people who have not traveled internationally.

Maine CDC is still investigating the possibility of community transmission in five other counties. A total of 499 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Maine as of Monday, with 10 people dying from the virus.

Shah said Monday the units would be staffed with a mix of state government employees and staff from hospital and other health care providers. Working out those details is “quite challenging” and ongoing, he said.

 


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