High View Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. Credit: Linda Pelletier / St. John Valley Times

Three people have died and dozens more are sick due to COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes in Caribou, Madawaska and Eagle Lake.

One person died Christmas Day and two more on Monday at Caribou Rehab and Nursing Center, administrator Phil Cyr said. Six patients had tested positive for the virus a week ago and the number had grown to 44 by Christmas Day in the 67-bed facility.

Of the remaining 41 residents, 14 are expected to come out of quarantine Tuesday and the rest will remain in quarantine until they have completed their 10 days, he said.

“We believe that COVID originally came into our building a few weeks ago through one or more asymptomatic employees,” Cyr said.

In addition to the 44 residents, 15 Caribou Rehab employees have tested positive for the virus, presenting a challenge in terms of staffing the facility.

“We have added a second charge nurse in our COVID unit and have offered staff overtime and double pay to work extra,” Cyr said. “We have provided our residents the best possible care given our very difficult circumstances.”

Management nurses at the facility have been working overtime to conduct hundreds of COVID tests on staff and residents.

“Universal COVID testing sent to the state lab takes three to four days to receive results,” Cyr said. “We also have our own testing machine that is not as accurate but it only takes 15 minutes and has given us time to quarantine residents prior to confirmed state testing. We have been testing everyone using both methods.”

Caribou Rehab is one of four Aroostook County nursing homes to experience a COVID-19 outbreak this month. The others were in Madawaska and Presque Isle.

Nineteen residents and nine staff members have tested positive in an outbreak at High View Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 51-bed facility in Madawaska, administrator Nancy Cote Daigle posted on social media Sunday. As of Saturday, two employees and seven residents had tested positive, she said.

Daigle’s post did not indicate how the virus came into the facility and she could not be reached for comment Monday.

Mercy Home, a 40-bed nursing facility in Eagle Lake, also has reported a COVID-19 outbreak. Three employees and one resident tested positive on Dec. 22, and that number has grown to 13 residents and eight employees with confirmed cases of COVID-19, Northern Maine General said Monday.

Mercy Home is part of Northern Maine General, a nonprofit social services organization that serves Aroostook County.

Residents with confirmed cases are isolated in a separate unit at the facility and employees have been designated to work only on that unit to minimize any cross contamination of the virus into other sections of the facility.

Employees and residents of Mercy Home were offered COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday, administered by Charles Ouellette of St. John Valley Pharmacy.

A similar outbreak occurred at another Aroostook County nursing facility earlier in December.

Five people died and 27 were infected during a COVID-19 outbreak at Presque Isle Rehab and Nursing Center.

On Monday, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported 505 active cases of COVID-19 in Aroostook County, and 22,319 in the state.

So far 701 nursing home residents in Maine have been confirmed to have COVID-19, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of those, 106 have died as a result of the virus.