The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) on Saturday opened an investigation into an outbreak of COVID-19 involving at least seven people in the Houlton area. Four Houlton Ambulance Service staff are among the confirmed cases. All affected individuals are isolating.
On June 13, a Houlton Ambulance Service crew transported a patient to Houlton Regional Hospital for non-COVID-19 reasons. On June 14, the patient was transported from Houlton Regional Hospital by a different Houlton Ambulance Service EMS team to Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) for surgery. The patient, who did not display any symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19 as part of EMMC’s protocol to test patients for the virus prior to surgeries. The two EMS teams were also tested, and all four crew members are positive. In addition, at least two additional individuals with close contact to the EMS team members or the patient have tested positive. The source of the outbreak remains under investigation.
As with every confirmed case, Maine CDC is conducting contact tracing as part of the case investigation process. Testing for individuals identified as close contacts has been arranged. Additionally, individuals who believe they may have come into close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with any member of the Houlton Ambulance Service since June 8 should call Houlton Regional Hospital at (207) 532-2900 to obtain information about and pre-register for drive-through testing.
Testing will be offered free of charge in the parking lot of Houlton Regional Hospital. On Monday, June 22, 2020, testing will be available from noon to 4 p.m. On both Tuesday, June 23, and Wednesday, June 24, testing will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Individuals who go to the hospital for drive-through testing are asked to wear face coverings.
It is crucial that individuals who believe they might have been exposed call Houlton Regional Hospital in advance to pre-register. Doing so will help avoid crowds at the testing site and potential additional spread of COVID-19.
Maine CDC is working closely with Houlton Regional Hospital to facilitate testing. Maine CDC has provided the hospital with supplies of swabs and personal protective equipment for collection of testing samples. In addition, a Maine CDC public health nurse will be onsite to assist with sample collection.
Houlton Ambulance Service is working closely with Maine CDC and Maine EMS in this investigation. The Ambulance Service has arranged coverage for its staff members who are isolating. If you have a medical emergency, do not delay in calling 911 for assistance.
Physical distancing, use of face coverings in public places, and good personal hygiene, including frequent handwashing, remain the best ways to reduce potential spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in Aroostook County, where this outbreak has occurred, and throughout Maine.
For more information, visit Maine CDC’s COVID-19 website.