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York Hospital investigates COVID-19 cluster among staff, patients

In an update Friday, the hospital said 17 staff members and six patients have tested positive thus far.

YORK, Maine — York Hospital is working with the Maine CDC to investigate a cluster of COVID-19 cases among the hospital’s staff and patients.

The hospital said the cluster was identified on Sunday, Dec. 6. In an update Friday, the hospital said 17 staff members and six patients have tested positive thus far. While the outbreak was originally among staff members working in the hospital’s inpatient adult health care area, it now extends to other services as well. However, the hospital said it is confined to the main building. 

Over 83 hospital staff have tested negative. Those with positive results exhibited mild symptoms, and sought care after testing in relation to the current investigation.

York Hospital’s Infection Control team, led by infectious disease specialist Evangeline Thibodeau, MD, and under the leadership of the Maine CDC, is working to investigate the cluster and identify possible factors that contributed to the cluster.

“We have completed our first round of universal testing for staff members of Inpatient Adult Healthcare, and will conduct our second round on Sunday, December 13," Thibodeau said Friday after meeting with Dr. Stephen Sears of the Maine CDC. "Due to the outbreak’s expansion to other services, testing will expand to include those caregivers with possible exposure as well. We will then proceed with interval testing every five days. The CDC does not recommend testing of all staff throughout the hospital.”

Additionally, the hospital is contacting all discharged patients who may have had close contact with the affected staff during their stay, offering immediate testing, along with a request to quarantine.

The hospital has implemented the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS), which allows staff to organize and facilitate optimal response to the surge in patients with COVID-19, along with needs created by the ongoing healthcare worker outbreak. The hospital's HICS team is currently redistributing those staff across the organization, who possess the appropriate and necessary skills, to its sites and areas with most urgent needs. 

Additionally, York Hospital has already implemented temporary closures to our Kittery Walk-In Service as of December 5, and York Hospital in Berwick services as of Saturday, December 12, both in response to current and future staffing considerations. The hospital is curtailing these two particular services at this time and is confident in its ability to continue outpatient care for these communities at our other walk-in care sites. The hospital is also provided with a daily assessment of staffing supplies, ensuring the necessary tools for patient care remain available throughout all of its locations. York Hospital continues to offer all other services, including: emergent care, elective surgeries and special procedures, walk-in care, primary care, home care, specialty practices, laboratory, imaging services and rehab therapy.

“This outbreak, due to its isolated area of impact, does not warrant widespread testing of all caregivers. We instead, are directing our efforts toward those patients and healthcare workers who have experienced direct contact with the affected staff,” Thibodeau said in a statement Tuesday.

The hospital says while the investigation is underway, their leadership and staff are re-invigorating their commitment and focus to CDC guidelines and current hospital protocol “often exceeding CDC expectations,” the hospital said. The hospital will continue to mandate pre-procedural COVID-testing for all surgical patients, which has been required since May.

“York Hospital remains committed, every day, to maintaining the most secure environment possible for our caregivers and patients alike,” the hospital said in a statement. “We look forward to safe and continued care for all who enter our doors, along with transparency and cooperation to both the CDC and our community during these challenging times.”

The hospital says updated information will be provided as more becomes available.

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