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10 emergency department staff test positive for COVID-19, Maine Medical Center confirms

The hospital reported the outbreak to the Maine CDC on August 5.

PORTLAND, Maine — An additional emergency department staff member at Maine Medical Center has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of infected workers to 10, the hospital said in a press release Tuesday.

The hospital said it is also monitoring four additional cases located on a medical floor that are unrelated to the emergency department's outbreak. These cases have been reported to the Maine CDC, the release said.

On Monday, a spokesperson said some of the nine originally reported staff were fully vaccinated, but they did not know how many of those nine were fully vaccinated.

The hospital reported the outbreak to the Maine CDC on August 5, according to Maine Department of Health and Human Services Communications Director Robert Long. 

The spokesperson said staff have tested the hospital's full emergency department team.

They said the next step is expanding COVID testing to more emergency department support staff.

Maine Med has contacted all patients exposed in the emergency department and no one has tested positive for the virus at this point, according to the spokesperson.

Due to the increased spread of the virus, Maine Med had planned to re-instate visitor restrictions Monday, which include limiting visits for adult inpatients to one visitor a day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

According to an internal Maine Medical Center memo obtained by NEWS CENTER Maine, "In the last few weeks, there have been 16 COVID + employees who have all been vaccinated."

NOTE: NEWS CENTER Maine has blurred a section of the document that does NOT pertain to the hospital's COVID outbreak. 

In the memo, leadership urged staff to wear masks at all times, except when alone in a private office. "This means masks while at the scanners - no exceptions!"

The memo also said the hospital is looking at reinstating screeners at employee entrances to confirm employee daily screening is being done again.

"Will most likely reinstate mandatory eye protection again as well," the memo says.

MMC continues to require masking in its facilities and social distancing and hand hygiene whenever possible.

The Maine Medical Association issued the following statement to NEWS CENTER Maine:

“Maine's physicians first hope none of the Maine Med cases identified are serious. While we don't know any specific details it's another chance to stress the best way out of the pandemic is vaccination. It's encouraging that Maine hospitals have recently announced mandates, including Maine Med, but shocking that they're necessary. The vaccines are not only proven very safe and effective but also critical when your job includes caring for sick people."

Maine State Nurses Association spokesperson, Todd Ricker, MSNA/NNOC/NNU lead labor representative, gave the following statement:

"We are deeply concerned about a Covid outbreak at Maine Medical Center. Nine registered nurses have tested positive in the emergency department and additional staff are reported to have tested positive in another department. We are assessing the situation to find out how this has happened.  

We want Maine Med to ensure that all frontline staff members have the personal protective equipment they need to do their jobs safely. And we want to make sure the hospital is following all safety protocols mandated by the new Emergency Temporary Standard just issued under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration."

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