Lincoln County has three new cases of COVID-19 since last week and a total of five, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of noon, Tuesday, March 24, the state now has 118 cases of COVID-19, with 3,014 negative tests and about 1,300 tests pending. Eighty-six of the 118 cases are new within the last week.
Of the 118 cases, 15 people have been hospitalized and seven have recovered. The coronavirus has now spread to 10 of Maine’s 16 counties.
COVID-19 is the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
LincolnHealth spokesperson John Martins said by email Tuesday, March 24 that there have been no new positive tests through the hospital since a LincolnHealth nurse, a man in his 40s, was diagnosed and ordered to self-quarantine. The hospital announced the nurse’s test result March 16.
Martins said the hospital remains “in good shape” as far as its stock of personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields, and is reviewing its stock two or three times daily.
LincolnHealth has conducted 64 tests for COVID-19 since the outbreak began, with one positive. The hospital has 173 test kits on hand.
“As we use tests, we work with MaineHealth and request more tests to keep on top of our inventory,” Martins said.
The Maine CDC recommends that residents stay home when sick, wash hands often for at least 20 seconds, practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other people, and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Health officials urge patients to stay at home and call their doctor for guidance if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. The symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and, in some patients, a sore throat. A doctor’s note is required to be tested for COVID-19.
The Maine CDC is prioritizing those who have been hospitalized and those who are at higher risk, such as the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions, for testing.
LincolnHealth further restricts visits
LincolnHealth has essentially closed both of its campuses – Miles in Damariscotta and St. Andrews in Boothbay Harbor – to visitors as of Friday, March 20.
There are exceptions for one visitor at a time in the pediatrics, obstetrics, end-of-life care, and day surgery departments.
One person will be allowed to pick up a patient after discharge or as an “escort to emergency department, outpatient and ambulatory areas in some circumstances,” according to a statement from the hospital.
“We recognize that family support is essential to the healing process and that heightened restrictions are particularly difficult for parents with young children, those who are expecting a child, and those facing end-of-life decisions,” James Donovan, president and CEO of LincolnHealth, said in the statement. “While this is a difficult decision, we feel it is the best way to protect the health of our patients and of our care team members.”
All visitors will be screened upon entering a LincolnHealth facility, according to the statement. Visitors will be asked a series of questions, including whether they have a fever, a new cough in the last 14 days, shortness of breath, a sore throat, or a runny nose.
LincolnHealth has also closed the St. Andrews Urgent Care Center in order to bring employees to the Miles Campus in Damariscotta, where it is testing for COVID-19 in a drive-up area behind the emergency room.
In a statement, the hospital said it would expand the hours for the Family Care Center on the St. Andrews Campus to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week in order to increase health care access in the Boothbay region.
All physical and occupational therapy and laboratory services not related to COVID-19 will remain available at the St. Andrews Campus.
“It is clear, from what we have seen around the country, that COVID-19 has a significant impact on health care resources,” Dr. Timothy Fox, chief medical officer at LincolnHealth, said in a statement. “Preparing now by adjusting resources to be ready for a large influx of patients is essential. This decision will allow us to establish a centralized location for staff and critical supplies, making care delivery more efficient.”
Cindy Wade, a registered nurse and chief operating officer at LincolnHealth, is heading up the hospital incident command center.
“It’s a very structured system; it works really well. We drill on this every year on a big incident. We partner with our community partners on that. Although we’ve never been in a situation where it’s lasted this long, I think we’ve got a good system in place and it’s working well,” Wade said of the command center in an interview with Lincoln County Television on Monday, March 23.
Wade said a group of hospital workers is looking at what spaces can potentially be converted for use as additional intensive care units if necessary.
“Be patient; this is just starting. This is going to be a while that we’re taking care of people and trying to take care of ourselves. And stay home,” Wade said as a word of final advice to county residents.
Nonessential businesses must close
At a press conference Tuesday, March 24, Gov. Janet Mills mandated that all nonessential businesses close their public-facing operations to the public until April 8.
Mills said businesses do not have to close entirely, but must close the public-facing operations.
Mills said the next 15 days will be critical to slowing the spread of the virus so Maine hospitals are not overwhelmed.
The order follows a previous order by the governor for all restaurants and bars in Maine to discontinue dine-in service beginning at 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 18.
On the same day, Portland, Maine’s largest city, issued a five-day stay-at-home order for all residents, similar to orders passed in Bangor and Brunswick, as well as other states. Residents must not leave the house except for essential items, like groceries or medicine.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, urged Mainers in a news conference Monday, March 23 to act as if COVID-19 is already being transmitted in their community.
“Maybe it already is, maybe it’s not. But because of this incubation period, this time between when someone is exposed and when they start developing symptoms, it can be as much as 16 days before someone starts to develop those symptoms,” Shah said.
“How you live your life today could affect the lives of others in your community tomorrow,” Shah said.
Shah stressed the typical social distancing measures, which Shah has started to refer to as “physical distancing,” in order to stress the importance of retaining social connections through other means during the coronavirus pandemic.