A number of new coronavirus outbreaks have been detected in Maine since the end of last week, the most serious of which has infected at least 35 residents and 10 employees at a Deer Isle nursing home.
State officials are now working with the administrator of Island Nursing Home to conduct additional testing and ensure the 38-bed facility has enough staff and personal protective equipment to safely keep operating, according to Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
On its Facebook page, the nursing home said that contact tracers determined an employee brought the virus in after catching it in the community and going to work while not showing symptoms. The nursing home is now working with the Maine National Guard to disinfect the facility and with other agencies and organizations to help contain the outbreak.
“Staffing is very limited and critical with a large number of staff out,” the nursing home said.
Maine has also recently identified smaller outbreaks connected to Long Creek Youth Development Center, where five workers have tested positive; Nokomis Regional High School in Newport (eight positive cases); at the Northern Light Medical Transport station in Dexter (eight cases); the Auburn Public Works department (three cases); Westbrook High School (three cases); Perry Transport in Poland (five cases); and Granite Bay Care in Saco (three cases).
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In Bangor, Penobscot Community Health Care also announced that three of its workers have tested positive for the virus and that the cases were “likely linked,” although contact tracers have so far been unable to detect the original source of transmission. The organization has reopened its walk-in care clinic at 1012 Union St. after deep-cleaning it late last week.
The new outbreaks were detected as the coronavirus has surged to record levels across Maine in recent weeks. Unlike in the early days of the pandemic, the virus is so widespread now that more transmission is happening in the community, outside of institutional settings such as businesses and nursing homes, according to state health officials.
Even so, that community transmission is continuing to seed new institutional outbreaks, which can in turn lead to more community spread, Shah has said.
Just in November, the state has discovered nearly a third of the 42 outbreaks — 13 in total — that have been recorded in long-term care settings during the entire pandemic, according to Maine CDC data.
Long-term care facilities are particularly high-risk settings for COVID-19 outbreaks because their residents live in close quarters where the disease can spread easily and because the elderly are generally at higher risk of dying from it. More than half of the state’s 194 COVID-19 deaths have sprung from outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living centers.