The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first hospitalization of a Lincoln County resident for COVID-19 on Tuesday, May 19.
The county saw two new cases confirmed over the past week, one on Friday, May 15 and another on Saturday, May 16.
Since the outbreak arrived in the county March 15, 17 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 have recovered. The number of confirmed, active cases stands at five.
LincolnHealth spokesperson John Martins said the hospitalization did not occur at LincolnHealth, the only hospital in the county.
Both new cases were confirmed through LincolnHealth, bringing the total to nine. One of the two positive tests was of a LincolnHealth employee, who is recovering at home.
Martins said by email that the exposure to the virus occurred outside the hospital. The individual did not have any patient contact and only limited interaction with a few other employees.
Martins said all employees who may have been exposed have been contacted and some have been tested for COVID-19. Of those who have been tested, none have tested positive.
Since March 15, LincolnHealth has conducted 494 COVID-19 tests, with 485 negative results. The hospital has 244 test kits on hand.
Martins said the hospital remains in a “surge maintenance” phase, prepared for a spike in COVID-19 cases that could require hospitalization and critical care.
Last week, the hospital started to resume some time-sensitive nonemergency procedures. Martins said all patients admitted for surgery, even minor procedures such as colonoscopies or endoscopies, are now being tested for COVID-19.
“We are working with MaineHealth and CDC to expand testing, and the likely next step will be testing all patients who get admitted to the hospital,” Martins wrote.
“Logically, the more we test, the more we will find,” said Dr. Tim Fox, chief medical officer at LincolnHealth. “That said, barring a surge, the number of positives will be tempered by an overall decreasing prevalence of disease in the community as time goes on.”
Due to an agreement with Westbrook-based Idexx, the Maine CDC is set to more than triple its testing capacity to perform 5,000 tests per week for the foreseeable future.
Because of the increase in testing capacity, the Maine CDC eliminated testing restrictions Monday, May 18 to allow health care providers to test anyone they suspect of having COVID-19.
Previously, only patients in hospitals or congregate care facilities, health care workers or first responders, people 60 and up, or people with an underlying medical condition were prioritized for testing.
“As testing supplies increase, we will work with MaineHealth’s team of experts who will guide testing expansion,” Martins said in reference to the new guidelines.
Martins explained a new screening procedure for employees that LincolnHealth implemented Tuesday, May 19. The new protocol involves an application called Conserva that can be downloaded onto a smartphone, computer, or tablet.
Through Conserva, a screener asks a series of questions that determines if an employee is clear to return to work. Anyone who wears a LincolnHealth badge, an employee or contractor, must undergo the screening and report the results to their supervisor before reporting to work.
The clearance to work is valid for 16 hours, Martins said.
“This is another step taken across the MaineHealth system to ensure our team members are safe as well as provide those who need care with an additional layer of precaution to assure the highest level of safety. It’s important for people in our communities to know that care should not be put off out (of) concern for safety,” Martins wrote.
More hospital services will come online in the coming weeks, Martins said.
The Urgent Care Center on the St. Andrews Campus in Boothbay Harbor will reopen Thursday, May 28 and mammography services started Tuesday, May 19.
Martins said calls to LincolnHealth’s COVID-19 clinic have not changed over the past week.
The hospital also remains in “good shape” in regards to personal protective equipment, such as face masks.
State COVID-19 numbers
According to the Maine CDC, as of Tuesday, May 19, 1,741 people have or had COVID-19 in Maine. This is an increase of 264 from the week before.
There have been 225 hospitalizations and 1,088 people have recovered. There have been 73 deaths.
Of the 1,741 cases, 180 are “probable cases.” This category includes people who are close contacts of someone with a confirmed case and become symptomatic.
The number of active cases, 580 – calculated by subtracting recoveries and deaths from the confirmed case total – is an increase of 81 from Tuesday, May 12.
As restaurants and retail shops begin to reopen in Lincoln County, with restrictions, several precautions and procedures will affect the businesses and their patrons.
Several restaurants, like King Eider’s Pub in Damariscotta and Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, started dine-in service Monday, May 18.
Moody’s posted a list of customer requirements, set by the state, on its website. The list includes reminders to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet whenever possible, wear a face covering whenever physical distancing is difficult, and limit restroom occupancy to two.
Moody’s is regularly sanitizing high-touch areas and abiding by the decreased occupancy limit of 50, as required by the state. Booths and tables are spaced 6 feet apart.
The state has provided thorough checklists for businesses that are resuming their customer-facing operations. This list includes sanitation practices, staggered shifts and physically distant training for employees, and occupancy limits.
Reservations with call-ahead seating are recommended by the state. Moody’s will have a waiting list with one person per party allowed to wait in the waiting area. If physical distancing is not possible, customers may have to wait in their cars, the website says.
Restaurants are also required by the state to maintain records of dine-in customers for contact tracing purposes, should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur. Restaurants must record the name and phone number of one customer per dining party, as well as dining dates and times, and the server of each party.
Moody’s says on its website that this information is not given to the state. The purpose is to contact customers in the event that Moody’s becomes aware of another customer who has contracted COVID-19.