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Staff members at an Augusta nursing home who initially tested negative for the coronavirus when the facility reported what has become Maine’s largest coronavirus outbreak have now tested positive for COVID-19.
The staff members had been caring for the minority of Augusta Center for Health and Rehabilitation residents who had also tested negative for the virus, which has infected about three-quarters of the facility’s 63 residents.
Now, the center is retesting those residents who are showing symptoms to see if they have become infected, according to a representative of the center’s parent company.
The spread of the outbreak to employees — and potentially residents — who initially tested negative highlights how the highly contagious virus can easily move through a facility where residents and staff are in close proximity, even when those who have tested negative have been isolated from those with the virus.
As of Wednesday, 47 residents and 27 staff members at the Augusta facility had tested positive for the coronavirus. The number of infected staff had grown by two over the past week.
Stephanie LaPointe of Pittston found out Tuesday that her mother, 72-year-old Linda Ogren, had been exposed to the virus through staff members who were retested and tested positive. Her mother is in the minority of residents who initially tested negative even as her roommate tested positive. The center had moved her from her usual room to a different wing with other residents who did not have COVID-19.
“We want to move my mother out, but at this point, you know, I can’t move her out because now she has to be quarantined for another two weeks,” LaPointe said.
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Genevieve Worthington, chief marketing officer for the Augusta facility’s parent company, National Health Care Associates, confirmed that the rehabilitation center retested staff members after they developed coronavirus symptoms.
“At this time, in accordance with CDC directives, Augusta is re-testing residents that have been exposed and are exhibiting symptoms,” she said in an email. “Augusta has directed any staff member who has tested positive to quarantine at home pursuant to CDC guidelines.”
Worthington did not specify the number of staff members whose second tests had come back positive or how long the staff members would be quarantined.
LaPointe had not heard if her mother, who has COPD and congestive heart failure, is going to be retested as of Thursday morning. She has not been showing symptoms.
“My mother is a high-risk person who was negative,” LaPointe said. “I don’t want her to become positive.”
A Maine Center for Disease Control spokesman said retesting is a part of the agency’s response to nursing home outbreaks. So far, six long-term care facilities in the state have reported outbreaks, meaning each facility has had at least three cases.
“Maine CDC’s protocol for responding to outbreaks like the one at the Augusta Health and Rehabilitation Center would involve testing some individuals multiple times,” said Robert Long, the Maine CDC spokesperson. “Outbreaks aren’t static, so repeat testing, especially if an individual exhibits symptoms, is an important part of controlling potential spread of the virus.”
Watch: Should you remove loved ones from care facilities during the outbreak?