FARMINGTON – Four Franklin Memorial Hospital staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in what the Maine Center for Disease Control is classifying as an outbreak, according to a press release distributed Friday evening by the hospital.
All four employees, described as being members of the hospital’s care team that worked in different areas of the hospital, tested positive for the respiratory illness and are now in self-quarantine. Those cases are seen as an indication that the virus had “rooted itself” in Franklin County, FMH’s statement indicates.
“They worked in different areas of the hospital, and it is believed that the cases are an indication that the coronavirus has rooted itself in Franklin County,” the statement reads, “which up until now has had fewer cases than other, harder-hit parts of Maine. The CDC has classified the cases as an outbreak, however they are unlikely to be isolated or confined to the hospital as the coronavirus is increasingly showing up in Maine’s rural areas.”
Maine has seen a surge in positive cases over the past few days, with 103 additional cases reported Friday. The 7-day positivity rate, a function of positive cases compared to total test volume, has crept up to .83 percent. Over the course of the entire pandemic, Franklin County has seen only a fraction of the roughly 6,500 cases reported statewide, per the Maine CDC data, logging 80 positive cases. That state has recorded a single death of a Franklin County resident due to COVID-19, as well as 68 recoveries.
“What this means is that we are all going to have to step up our vigilance if we want to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Trampas Hutches, president of Franklin Community Health Care, which includes Franklin Memorial. “We would urge everyone in the community to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose whenever they are in an indoor space with people who are not part of their immediate household. This should be the case even when people are more than six feet apart.”
FMH is working with the CDC to test everyone potentially exposed to the virus. The hospital is also reviewing related policies, such as where employees gather for breaks.
“The positive cases are not thought to pose a significant risk to patients as hospital staff has been consistent in the use of protective equipment shown to minimize transmission,” FMH’s said in its statement.
The hospital is also stressing that people continue to get flu shots and not put off care for other medical issues. FMH remains open for all services, with the statement indicating that “extensive protocols” were in place to keep patients safe, including universal masking, frequent cleanings and designated areas for treating potential COVID-19 patients.
In addition to wearing a mask, the CDC recommends people practice good hand hygiene and keep surfaces clean. Those who are concerned they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or experience symptoms of infection – including fever, chills, sore throat, difficulty breathing, unexplained muscle aches, new cough, loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion or vomiting or diarrhea – should call their primary care provider for advice on testing, treatment and quarantine measures.
“Up to this point, Maine has done much better than the rest of the country controlling the spread of this virus, and fortunately for our community, it hasn’t been as prevalent in Franklin County,” said Hutches. “With the cooler weather, every indication is that that is starting to change. It is vital that we take this threat seriously by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.”