Portland closed its India Street health clinic for two weeks after an employee tested presumptive positive for coronavirus, City Manager Jon Jennings said Friday.

The city staff member, one of two people in Maine to test positive for the virus, is an unidentified man in his 50s who works at the clinic that serves some of the state’s most vulnerable groups, including the homeless, people with substance-use disorder and those who cannot afford to pay for medical care.

Jennings also said Friday the city is preparing space in the two municipal homeless shelters so it can quarantine anyone who presents with symptoms and has no other place to go.

And, because the clinic workers also spent time at City Hall with other workers, City Hall and other city buildings will be closed to external visitors for the next two weeks, the city announced. City Hall will be closed for the next week to non-essential staff while the city performs a deep cleaning of the building.

So far, a total of 23 city employees, including seven volunteers, are self-quarantined because they had contact with the clinic employee who tested positive. The employees are coworkers at the clinic or came into contact with the man at City Hall. The city also is reaching out to patients who may have had contact with the staffer, but Jennings could not say Friday how many patients might have been exposed.

“I want to assure our community that your City Council and the city of Portland’s professional staff is here focusing on measures that are both prudent and aggressively cautious in the interest of public safety and well-being,” said Mayor Kate Snyder. “The earlier we impose aggressively cautious measures, the less time we need to keep them in place.”


The India Street clinic houses three programs, and all will be closed for the next two weeks: the needle exchange program and a related sexually transmitted disease testing program, and the Portland Community Free Clinic, which provides medical care to working low-income people and has a partnership with the city. The clinic’s workers are not city employees, and most are volunteers.

Plans are also in the works to respond to any coronavirus-related illnesses at the city’s homeless shelter and the nearby family shelter. The second floor of the family shelter has been reserved for people who need to self-quarantine. Jennings said there is also space at the Oxford Street shelter on different floors that will be used for quarantine, separate from areas for people are asymptomatic and still require services.

It was not clear Friday whether the clinics patients will receive care through other agencies during the closure.

In 2017, the clinic’s needle exchange program enrolled 948 people and exchanged more than 186,000 needles. The program also serves as a link for clients to get other services, including medical care, addiction treatment and mental health treatment.

Dr. Kathleen Fairfield, a staff physician at Maine Medical Center and the volunteer medical director of the free clinic, said her clinic has a limited number of full-time staff whose salaries are paid through donations. The majority of staff, including many nurses, nurse-practitioners and doctors are volunteers.

Fairfield estimated that the clinic has about 500 patients who have jobs, are uninsured but don’t meet the minimum requirements for Medicaid.


“It’s a really important resource for the working low-income population in Cumberland County,” Fairfield said in a phone interview. “So yes, there are people who will not be served because of this situation.”

Grondin did not respond to questions about how many patients were notified about the potential exposure, but she said the clinic patients are considered “very low risk.” The city decided to shut the clinic because the quarantine meant there are no staffers to run it, and not because of medical risk, Grondin said.

It’s unclear how the staffer contracted the virus, and whether he worked at the clinic in the days before he began showing symptoms. Grondin also did not respond to questions about when that persons’ symptoms first appeared and when he notified the city of his health status.

Currently, the city of Portland is without a permanent public health director, but Grondin said there is no impact to services or the city’s management capability because there are two acting directors along with a director of health and human services and an emergency management coordinator performing the duties.

In addition, Jennings said, he ordered City Hall closed at 3 p.m. Friday out of “an abundance of caution,” and announced plans to meet with staff to decide when and how city buildings will open in the future.

The city is also making plans to limit or restrict visits to residents of the Barron Center, the municipally-owned skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility on Brighton Avenue near the Westbrook city line.

Portland also cancelled all events at the Merrill Auditorium, the Portland Expo Center, and the Ocean Gateway facility scheduled in the next 30 days, and suspended all travel by city employees.

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