A staff member at Old Orchard Beach High School has tested positive for coronavirus and students may have been exposed, the school superintendent announced Wednesday.

John Suttie, superintendent of RSU 23 schools in Old Orchard Beach, said he was notified Wednesday by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention that a staff member at the high school had COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. No further information has been provided about the person’s work activities at the school.

“Staff and students may have been exposed to the virus and we are informing you out of an abundance of caution,” the letter from the CDC said.

Suttie said the CDC made clear that he cannot provide any additional information about the staff member – including whether it is a classroom teacher or whom they may have had contact with – because of medical privacy laws. The CDC has only provided general information about the infected Mainers, such as the county of resident and gender.

“The CDC is doing an investigation and will contact whomever they think is at risk of exposure based on an interview with the employee,” he said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines close contact as being within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for a prolonged period or having direct contact with infectious secretions, such as being coughed on. That means not everyone who shared a classroom or other space with the infected person would be notified by CDC.

The CDC suggested people connected to the high school monitor themselves for symptoms and contact a health care provider if those symptoms surface.

Old Orchard Beach schools are closed until at least March 27.

Suttie said he received a phone call or email from staff, students and parents about every 5 minutes Wednesday afternoon. Most were looking for clarity on the identity of the patient, which he told them he cannot provide. He urged people to be patient and understanding.

“We’re just getting started here,” he said. “We don’t know how many positive tests we’re going to have in our community and other communities. We’re all going to have to be patient and work through this process … We’ll weather this.”

Maine now has 42 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 14 since Tuesday. The confirmed or presumptive cases remain concentrated in Cumberland County, which has 23 cases, with three cases in Androscoggin County, one in Kennebec County, three in Lincoln County, one in Oxford County, one in Penobscot County and two in York County. Eight other possible infections are under investigation.

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