May 18, 2020
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Maine CDC looks into coronavirus outbreak at Augusta construction site

Matt Slocum | AP
Matt Slocum | AP
A construction crew works on a building site in Woolwich, N.J., on Monday. A construction site in Augusta has become the site of Maine’s latest coronavirus outbreak.

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Maine’s public health agency is looking into a coronavirus outbreak at an Augusta construction site, with the investigation focusing on 19 people living in multiple states.

It’s the first outbreak in Maine at a construction site. Construction has been considered an essential service under Gov. Janet Mills’ stay-at-home order that took effect in March, allowing construction sites to keep operating.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

The first case at the site was confirmed on May 1, when a worker on the project to build a new Maine Veterans’ Homes facility tested positive. Crews working for Pittsfield-based Cianbro and Pewaukee, Wisconsin-based VJS Construction Services are building the structure to replace the current Maine Veterans’ Homes facility in Maine’s capital.

“The central question in that investigation was, what direction the transmission went,” Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said Monday. “Did people from other states bring it to Maine or did they acquire COVID-19 while they were in Maine?”

The project worker tested positive despite a number of CDC-recommended precautions that have been in place at the construction site, VJS said in a news release.

Those who came in close contact with the construction worker are quarantining, the company said, and everyone who was on the construction site from April 27 to May 10 is being tested.

“While it is important to note we do not know the sources of the exposure, we have taken this additional step and are requiring anyone reentering the site to have first obtained a negative test result for the virus,” the company said.

The Maine CDC doesn’t know the total number of positive cases connected to the site, as out-of-state residents who test positive are counted in their home state’s tally of confirmed cases. The agency is working with public health agencies in those states and interviewing the 19 people it has identified as part of the investigation, Long said.

The two companies are working on a $91 million project to replace the current Maine Veterans’ Homes long-term care facility, which is located about 10 miles away from the construction site.

The construction site outbreak is unrelated to an outbreak at the organization’s Scarborough home, which has recorded more than 50 cases among residents and staff and 13 deaths.

The only people at the Augusta construction site are construction workers, Maine Veterans’ Homes spokesman Josh Scroggins said.

Watch: Nirav Shah on tracing the origins of coronavirus cases in Maine

 


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