BELFAST, Maine — A skilled nursing facility in Belfast that was an early epicenter of the coronavirus in Maine faces a new outbreak, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
As of Wednesday, three residents and four staff members at the Commons at Tall Pines have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Tina Rootes-Hunter, the executive director of the facility.
But unlike the outbreak last spring, which left 13 residents dead, the outlook is less bleak. So far, none of the residents who have tested positive have exhibited symptoms of the disease, Rootes-Hunter said, and the facility has enough personal protective equipment and access to testing.
“We are weathering this much better,” she said. “The biggest concern, obviously, is the residents … Only one staff member was symptomatic. It was pretty mild. The others have all been asymptomatic.”
About 95 percent of residents have been vaccinated, she said. Two of the residents who tested positive had both shots, including a person who initially tested positive and then tested negative. Another resident who has tested positive received just one dose of the vaccine.
The two COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States both require two shots to be effective. It takes time for people’s bodies to build protection after any vaccination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots may not be fully protective until a week or two after the second shot.
Following exposure, vaccinated people can be infected with or “carry” the virus that causes COVID-19, the CDC said, but not feel sick or have any symptoms.
Both Pfizer and Moderna, the makers of the two authorized vaccines, report that their vaccines show approximately 95 percent efficacy at preventing both mild and severe symptoms of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Only about 55 percent percent of staff at the facility have opted to be vaccinated, Rootes-Hunter said.
“I wish it was more.”
Because the spring 2020 outbreak was traumatizing for those connected to the facility, Tall Pines is making it possible for staff members to talk about their concerns with a social worker.
“It has been a hell of a year,” Rootes-Hunter said. “For those who care for and love the residents, it has been particularly traumatic.”
The first positive cases in the latest outbreak at the facility were detected on Wednesday and she doesn’t know how the virus made its way in. It has only surfaced in the skilled nursing facility at the Commons at Tall Pines, which has 32 residents.
“We have all the appropriate [precautions] and have been using PPE throughout the facility,” she said.
Last week, Maine CDC also reported an outbreak at the Harbor Hill Center in Belfast, with four residents of the center’s nursing home and three staff members testing positive.