With its public health clinic closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, Portland is now offering a remote needle exchange each morning in the city’s Bayside neighborhood.

The city said in a tweet Monday that people will be able to pick up clean needles and dispose of used needles from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the corner of Oxford and Elm streets. With the city’s clinic workers in quarantine, the daily outreach effort will be run by trained volunteers.

The needle exchange program is usually offered at the India Street health clinic as a way to prevent the spread of diseases through intravenous drug use and shared needles.

Portland closed the clinic on March 13, after a city worker tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. City officials said the closure was necessary because that employee exposed up to 23 other city workers and volunteers to the virus, which spreads easily with close contact.

The India Street clinic houses three programs, and all will be closed through the end of this week: 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 Portland Free Clinic’s workers are not city employees, and most are volunteers.

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.

State health officials on Monday urged everyone to act as though they have COVID-19 and to practice social distancing, or not congregating in groups of 10 or more and remaining 6 feet apart. Officials also urge residents to frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, cough and sneeze into their elbows and avoid touching one’s face.

As of Monday, Maine had recorded 107 COVID-19 cases, with more than half, 66, in Cumberland County.

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