Birch Bay Village staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Updated May 21

BAR HARBOR — An employee of Birch Bay Retirement Village tested positive for COVID-19, the illness resulting from the novel coronavirus. 

Mount Desert Island Hospital reported Saturday evening that the staff member, who works in residential care at the assisted living facility, is currently in isolation at home. 

Public health officials were notified and “we are taking every step recommended by our state and federal agencies to contain the spread,” Executive Director Peter Sullivan said in a statement. 

All residents who had potential contact with the staff member were tested and all had negative results. To date, this staff member’s positive result was the only positive test out of the 60 staff members and 30 residents tested. 

State guidelines require universal testing in “congregate care” settings in case of an outbreak, defined as three or more epidemiologically linked cases at the facility. Because this is only a single confirmed case, Birch Bay is not one of the eight long-term care facilities in Maine considered to have outbreaks. 

Last week, at the recommendation of the Maine CDC, all Birch Bay Retirement Village staff members were tested for COVID-19. 

“We worked with Mount Desert Island Hospital to perform asymptomatic COVID-19 testing of all Birch Bay Retirement Village staff,” Sullivan wrote in a post on the facility’s Facebook page Friday. At the time, the facility had no known cases among staff or residents. 

When they received news of the positive test, the hospital issued a press release Saturday evening. 

“We are continuing to monitor our residents to ensure that they remain safe and protected during this evaluation period,” Sullivan said in the release. 

“We have also contacted all staff who we believe may have come into close contact with this staff member and we will be working closely with CDC on continued contact tracing.” 

Birch Bay made contact with residents, their families and staff to keep everyone informed, according to hospital spokesperson Oka Hutchins, in addition to the calls being made by CDC contact tracers. 

All staff members who have had close contact with this positive staff member have been asked to immediately test again, Sullivan said. How and when those staff members will be returning to work will be managed in accordance with CDC guidelines. 

Birch Bay Retirement Village includes about 90 residents, living in 20 retirement cottages and an Inn serving residents of 22 independent living apartments licensed as Assisted Living, and 32 licensed Residential Care suites providing care for those who require supported living and memory care. 

There are no plans at this time to test the remaining 60 residents, according to the hospital. 

The facility closed to the public in March as a precaution against the spread of virus. On May 14, the facility began allowing scheduled outdoor distanced visits with family members who live nearby. With the news of the positive test, the no-visits policy was reinstated, Hutchins said, “pending further developments.” 

The Birch Bay staff person isolating at home is believed to be the only current active case of COVID-19 of a Hancock County resident. The Maine CDC is reporting 11 total cases for the county; nine of those people have recovered and one has died. 

Birch Bay is a separate nonprofit corporation but is a subsidiary of MDI Hospital. 

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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