Sign praising nursing home employees as heroes outside the Presque Isle Rehab and Nursing Center. Credit: David Marino Jr. / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A third resident has died in the COVID-19 outbreak at the Presque Isle Rehab and Nursing Center, administrator Mark McKenna said Friday.

The person who died was in the same unit as the two whose deaths had been reported on Wednesday, McKenna said. Total cases at the nursing home have risen from 24 to 25 since Wednesday, with another staff member contracting the virus. No other residents have tested positive since then.

Though the rise from Wednesday to Friday was not significant, the nursing home has now seen an increase of 15 new cases since Dec. 4, when 10 staff members and residents had tested positive. McKenna said they would continue to test residents and staff throughout the outbreak.

Of the 25 cases at the nursing home, 13 were among residents and 12 among staff members. As of Friday, 10 staff members and 10 residents had active cases of the disease — two staff members had recovered and three residents had died.

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The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention began an investigation into the nursing home outbreak last week. A staff member is believed to have brought the virus to the center after eating lunch with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, nursing home officials have said.

On Wednesday, McKenna said it was critically important that County residents take COVID-19 seriously.

“It is crucially important at this time that, due to rapid community spread, people in the community practice social distancing and mask-wearing,” McKenna said.

McKenna had said last week that all residents of the home— including those who had tested positive— had been in isolation in their rooms since the center’s first employee tested positive.

The nursing home outbreak is one of three active COVID-19 outbreaks in Aroostook County, all in Presque Isle: there are also outbreaks of five COVID-19 cases at Zippel Elementary School and four cases at Presque Isle High School. 

The Maine CDC defines a COVID-19 outbreak as three or more epidemiologically linked cases at a single facility.

COVID-19 has been deadly for nursing homes across the United States: 377,510 nursing home residents have been confirmed to have COVID-19, while 76,542 have died from the disease as of the week of Nov. 29, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of the 545 confirmed cases in Maine nursing homes, 78 have died.

As of Sunday, there are 148 active cases of COVID-19 in Aroostook County, according to the Maine CDC. Cases have increased significantly in recent weeks, and December has seen more new cases than the entirety of November. 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the Presque Isle elementary school that has seen five COVID-19 cases.

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