BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) facility Hope House Health and Living Shelter in Bangor now has 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus among staff and residents. PCHC announced 16 additional cases on Wednesday.
The facility had two confirmed cases last week, and a third earlier this week, officially making it an outbreak.
Hope House is located in Penobscot County, one of four Maine counties with identified community transmission of COVID-19. Community spread is defined as people being infected in a community, and it is not known how or where they became exposed. The other Maine counties with community spread are Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin.
In keeping with the Maine Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) "universal testing" approach for congregate living facilities, all guests who have visited the shelter in the past two weeks were tested. Staff members were also tested.
According to a PCHC press release, about 100 tests were conducted Monday afternoon and sent for review. Twelve of those tests came back positive Wednesday morning, as well as an additional positive test from the original testing done prior to the knowledge of the outbreak.
An additional 49 individuals were tested Tuesday morning; four tests came back positive later on Wednesday morning out of 26 of those tests. PCHC is still waiting for results from the remaining 23 tests sent Tuesday.
PCHC says all guests who have tested positive have been isolated away from other guests.
“Since the first positive case at the shelter, our priority has been and will continue to be the safety, security, and privacy of the individuals who have accessed shelter and transitional housing services at the Hope House Health and Living Center, while also following all recommendations from public health authorities,” Lori Dwyer, President & CEO of PCHC, said in a statement.
“Like all of us in this historic time, the individuals we serve are frightened and want to do what they can to protect themselves and their community, and our role is to give them tools and resources so they can do that,” Dwyer continued. “I am proud of the work done by our dedicated Hope House staff, who followed the plan and immediately took steps to outreach to every person who accessed Hope House services within the past two weeks, including folks located at the temporary shelter at Columbia Street Baptist Church, to offer testing, services and support, as well as a location where folks can isolate when they test positive for COVID-19."
Dr. Noah Nesin, Chief Medical Officer at PCHC, said not all of the individuals who tested positive are symptomatic.
“While new information is being learned daily about COVID-19, we knew at the beginning that it can spread quickly," Dr. Nesin said. "As a result, we planned ahead for the possibility of a rapid spread, and because of that, we have good plans in place for quarantining and managing the outbreak.“
PCHC says Hope House and the temporary shelter Columbia Street Baptist Church continue to practice good social distancing and are taking proactive steps as recommended by the CDC. All guests are given surgical masks, and all staff wear proper personal protective equipment, temperatures are being taken twice per day—once upon entry and once several hours later—and education is ongoing around infection control and proactive public health measures, including handwashing, social distancing, avoiding congregating in groups, and reporting symptoms.
"Hope House continues to work together with the shelter community, the City and the State to ensure proper protocols are being followed to keep as many people as safe and healthy as possible while they are using shelters available to them," PCHC said.
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