AUGUSTA — Two outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported recently in central Maine, including one at a long-term care facility in Augusta.

On Monday, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, said during a press briefing that a COVID-19 outbreak investigation was launched Sunday at MaineGeneral Rehabilitation & Long Term Care at Gray Birch.

Shah’s announcement came as Maine, like most of the nation, struggles with a worsening coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, the state CDC reported 12 more deaths — although those included late reports of deaths from previous days — and a one-day high of 255 new cases of COVID-19.

Dr. Steven Diaz, chief medical officer at MaineGeneral Health, said Tuesday afternoon that 20 residents of the facility and six staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

MaineGeneral CEO Chuck Hayes said 250 tests had been performed on staff members and residents at Gray Birch, and visitation is now limited to “virtual only.”

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long described the outbreak at Gray Birch as “a congregate living event.” He said the CDC is doing case investigations and contact tracing. It is also taking steps to ensure the facility has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, and arranging to test and retest all staff members and residents.

Diaz said infected residents have been moved to one unit at Gray Birch, and the facility has halted admissions, limited the number of people served by individual employees and increased testing and personal protective equipment protocols.

“If somebody has symptoms, we test them and we remove them, as needed,” Diaz said. “It stems the spread of disease elsewhere.”

He said losing six staff members to sickness has not affected the level of services at the facility, but Gray Birch does not have an “excess capacity” of workers, if a number of them were unable to work due to illness.

Hayes said staff members at Gray Birch have been working hard throughout the pandemic and the recent outbreak.

“They have really stepped up through the entire COVID pandemic — and certainly through this outbreak,” he said.

OUTBREAK REPORTED AT DOOLIN’S PUB IN LITCHFIELD

Shah said Monday the state CDC was undertaking an outbreak investigation at Doolin’s Pub in Litchfield, which included four cases.

Long said the outbreak investigation at Doolin’s Pub at The Meadows Golf Club was considered “a workplace event.”

“Maine CDC continues to investigate each case, with a focus on potential routes of transmission,” Long said. “We also are doing contact tracing of staff and patrons, and offering guidance to management to ensure that proper infection controls are in place.”

The outbreak was announced Nov. 14 on the pub’s Facebook page, and posts Nov. 15, 17 and 19 detailed developments related to the outbreak.

The original post reported an employee had tested positive Nov. 14, but was not experiencing any symptoms.

A post Nov. 17 reported another employee, a server, had tested positive. The post also mentioned times when the server worked, and targeted a reopening date of Dec. 1

A post Nov. 19 reported officials had communicated with all customers who reportedly had contact with a golf shop employee who tested positive.

Co-owner Darrick Christopher said employees were tested after a customer called to report a positive test.

“We don’t think anything came from that customer,” Christopher said, “but we found a case.”

The pub and golf shop were diligent about following guidelines, Christopher said, including putting barriers around the bar and undertaking a thorough cleaning.

Christopher said the four employees who tested positive were doing well. Three had experienced no symptoms, he said, and one who had mild symptoms had recovered.

Christopher said he felt “pretty good” about how his staff handled the outbreak, adding he wanted to provide frequent updates on Facebook to take pressure off CDC staff members and inform customers more quickly.

He said the contact tracing measures, which included taking contact information from someone at each table at the restaurant, “worked great.”

“I feel like it’s gone well,” Christopher said, “and people seem to appreciate it.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.