PORTLAND, Maine — A coronavirus outbreak at York Hospital that infected 59 caregivers and patients and strained the facility has largely been contained, hospital officials said.
There have been no new COVID-19 infections since Dec. 23 — about two weeks after the virus first hit the hospital and spread quickly to infect 46 health care workers and 13 patients there, hospital officials said. Three people died from the outbreak.
“There is no need for further testing or quarantine, due to the hospital’s adherence to safety measures,” a hospital spokesperson said Wednesday.
There are no positive cases linked to the December outbreak in York Hospital’s Adult Health Inpatient care unit, the spokesperson said, but currently two workers from different departments are infected with the virus.
About 900 of the hospital’s 1,200 employees and many patient-facing volunteers there have been vaccinated, hospital spokesperson Jean Kolak said. The state Center for Disease Control and Prevention closed its investigation in the outbreak earlier this month.
Staffing shortages challenged the facility as health care workers struggled to control record-high case outbreaks of the coronavirus since winter began.
To fill vacancies, York Hospital contracted 13 traveling health care workers in December, and retrained more than 60 caregivers for new roles to deal with the outbreak, according to Matthew Bennett, the hospital’s director of patient quality and caregiver experiences. Several hospital administrators have assisted caregivers at bedsides. Nine contractors remain as the staffing shortage improves.
Bennett attributed the improvement in case rates to enhanced safety measures like restricting visitors, curtailing workers’ travel and taking temperatures at entry, shuttering the cafeteria and restricting eating and drinking to one person at a time in shared areas.
The most effective practice was testing patients and staff upon admission and every 72 hours during their stay, Bennett said.
“By repeating testing, we improve our ability to monitor for COVID in our facility, especially with those who may not have a detectable viral load on admission,” Bennett said.
Evangeline Thibodeau, the hospital’s infectious disease specialist who led efforts to corral the outbreak, said that ramping up the number of real-time meetings where staff could address infectious disease questions was key.
“I know that our infectious disease team and caregivers will continue to learn from the outbreak,” Thibodeau said.