BAR HARBOR — Mount Desert Island Hospital is reporting a first confirmed positive case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus.
The sample was one of 75 collected by the hospital at its two remote testing sites and the patient never entered the hospital, according to a news release.
The testing sites are drive-up facilities; patients can be tested without having to leave their vehicles. One is at the hospital’s main campus; the other is near the Cooper-Gilmore Health Center.
As of Friday, 56 positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Maine. To date, Mount Desert Island Hospital has collected samples for 75 tests. Of these tests, 45 are still pending results, 27 have come back negative, two were untested due to specimen compromise and one has been confirmed positive by the Maine Center for Disease Control.
On Thursday, the Maine CDC reported one case in Hancock County, but changed the status of that one case Friday. The individual was tested in Hancock County, but lives in and is currently situated in Penobscot County, the agency said. It was not yet clear Friday evening whether the case reported by MDI Hospital was this same case, or a new one.
“We know this is the first of many in our community who will receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and our immediate concern will be for the care and treatment of these individuals,” said Art Blank, the hospital’s president and CEO.
“Our team is prepared to care for COVID-19 patients in a manner consistent with CDC guidelines in order to minimize risk to our patients, our dedicated staff and our community. We will continue to keep our community informed as the situation develops.”
Fire Chief Matt Bartlett told the Town Council Friday that the town’s ambulance service had not to date transported any patients suspected of COVID-19. Ambulance staff are briefed daily, he said, about questions to ask patients during assessment, personal protective equipment to wear and how to de-contaminate the ambulances after transporting a patient that is suspected of COVID-19.
“One of our goals for the department is to protect staff from exposure,” Bartlett said. Steps to protect staff include splitting the shifts between two locations and identifying a facility where employees can be isolated, if necessary, if they have been exposed.
Bartlett and John Lennon, who is the town’s health officer and assistant fire chief, are participating in daily briefings with Town Manager Cornell Knight, Police Chief Jim Willis, Police Lt. Dave Kerns and Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt to share information and coordinate any necessary action. They’re also in close contact with Mount Desert Island Hospital and receiving daily updates from the Maine CDC and Maine EMS.
COVID-19 causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, dry cough, and/or shortness of breath. Most cases are mild to moderate. Older adults and people with pre-existing medical conditions may experience more severe respiratory illness.
“If you are having symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, call your primary care provider’s office,” the hospital news release stated. “If you do not have a primary care provider, call MDI Hospital’s Coronavirus Call Center at 207-801-5900.”