A sign in front of the town office in Houlton informing residents of closure due to positive cases of COVID-19. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — A spike in COVID-19 cases has caused several businesses in the Houlton area to shut down — at least temporarily.

The Houlton Town Office closed its doors Wednesday, Aug. 11, after several employees tested positive for COVID-19, while others were deemed to be in close contact with the infected workers. Town Manager Marian Anderson said she hoped to reopen the town office on Tuesday.

The Cary Library in Houlton is also closed for the week after a positive case was reported in that building, Librarian Linda Faucher confirmed Monday.

“The library is getting a thorough disinfecting and we are erring on the side of caution,” she said in an email. “We always wear masks at work.”

The Downunder Sports Pub on North Street closed its doors Friday and Saturday, Aug. 13 and 14, after a staff member tested positive. The eatery posted the following message on its Facebook page: “The safety of our team and our customers is our primary concern. We will be cleaning our facility, getting tested and hope to open Tuesday [Aug. 17], at 4 p.m.”

On Aug. 4, Bastions Tavern in Market Square closed its doors after a second positive COVID-19 case at its establishment.

The closings come as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against the spread of the delta COVID-19 variant, believed to be more contagious than the original virus. The number of COVID-19 cases in the zip code that includes the towns of Houlton, Hodgdon, Littleton, Linneus, Ludlow and Hammond increased by 16 cases from Aug. 1 to Aug. 8, the most recently available data from the Maine CDC. The current total of cumulative cases in the area since the start of the pandemic is 348.

Shawn Anderson, the CEO of Houlton Regional Hospital, said that while the hospital has seen an increase in activity in recent days, it is prepared to take on new patients.

“We’ve been busy in the hospital, but are not at capacity,” Anderson said.

Ellen Bartlett, the infection preventionist at HRH, also acknowledged an increase in positive cases and emphasized the current call for wearing masks while indoors.

“Aroostook County is considered substantial transmission at this point,” Bartlett said. “It is advisable per the CDC for people to be masking when indoors in public settings whether or not they are vaccinated.”