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AUGUSTA, Maine — Arenas in Portland and Bangor will host the state’s first temporary medical units to treat people for the new coronavirus and expand the health care system’s capacity as the number of confirmed cases in the state keeps rising, Gov. Janet Mills said Tuesday.
The Bangor location will have 50 beds and be located in the temporarily closed Cross Insurance Center while the Portland treatment site, at the Cross Insurance Arena, will have 100 beds, Mills said. The units are two of potentially four makeshift sites the state will employ as recorded cases of the virus continue to rise.
They are meant to treat patients who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus but do not need intensive care, and are intended as a last resort if the state experiences a surge in cases. Mills said beds in hospitals are still the preferred option for treatment, and that 184 critical care beds in various hospitals around the state could be converted to expand their ability to treat sick individuals.
Those beds include 30 at MaineGeneral Health’s Augusta campus and 64 in Portland’s Maine Medical Center cancer unit. Brewer-based Northern Light Health has also said that its network can support up to 90 additional patients needing ventilator support.
For the temporary treatment centers, the state has 250 beds available that can be configured as the state sees fit, depending on a region’s need for expanded care, said Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson Robert Long. A 50-bed unit is expected to operate for 15 days before needing a resupply, he said, and it requires 15,000 square feet to comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
The sites are expected to be up by early next week and will be staffed shortly thereafter, Mills said. The Maine National Guard will work with local health care systems to set up the sites, and those health care systems will provide staff for the sites.
“I hope we never need to use these alternative care sites, but we cannot afford to wait to find out,” Mills said.
In placing the first two units in Portland and Bangor, the state would be expanding treatment capacity close to where some of the highest numbers of cases have been recorded. On Tuesday, the Maine CDC reported that nearly half of the state’s confirmed cases (253) have been in Cumberland County, where Portland is located, while another 31 have been reported in Penobscot County, where Bangor is the county seat.
Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said Monday that the state is also contemplating temporary units in western and northern Maine.
As of Tuesday, 519 people in Maine had confirmed cases of the virus and 12 had died while 176 had recovered. The only two counties where the CDC has confirmed that community transmission — when the virus spreads between people who have not traveled internationally — is occurring are Cumberland and York.
Similar temporary facilities at convention centers and arenas have been set up in hard-hit areas across the country, including New York City.
Watch: Nirav Shah on whether you should use fabric masks