CAPE ELIZABETH — More than half of the residents at a local assisted living facility have tested positive for COVID-19, according to statements from the facility and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC announced on May 21 that 57 people – 45 residents and 12 staff – have tested positive for the disease at Cape Memory Care. A statement from the facility on the same day confirmed the numbers and a spokesman said Wednesday that there had been no changes.

“Maine CDC’s outbreak response team is working closely with Cape Memory Care staff to support the health of individuals associated with the care center,” Maine CDC said in its announcement.

Cape Memory Care is a residential care facility for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The facility, which has 72 beds, currently has 66 residents and a staff of 35, according to its statement.

The facility learned on May 19 that a staff member had tested positive and “a small number of residents were starting to show signs of COVID-related symptoms,” according to the facility’s statement. The staff member, the statement read, had passed a pre-shift medical screening and was showing no symptoms.

That prompted universal testing of staff and residents the next day, leading to the discovery of the outbreak.

Cape Memory Care managing member Matthew Waters said the facility has been following Maine CDC guidance for more than two months and is now working closely with Maine CDC to help manage the outbreak.

“We have a plan in place to deal with this situation and it is being implemented immediately while working with a dedicated team at the Maine CDC,” Walters said. “The health and safety of our residents continues to be our top priority.”

Jess Maurer, executive director of the Southern Maine Council on Aging, called the news “heartbreaking” and noted a number of other recent outbreaks at similar facilities statewide, including one earlier this month at Maine Veterans’ Homes – Scarborough.

Maurer pointed out, however, that the disease does not necessarily spread so quickly due to the residents being elderly. Close proximity, a lack of sufficient masks and gloves statewide, along with preexisting conditions are all factors in the outbreaks.

“Anyplace where people are in close contact, there’s the likelihood of spread,” she said.

Maurer said she hopes the news will not reinforce the stereotype that the elderly are by definition vulnerable.

“It’s not like every older person walking around is more likely to die,” she said. “(Gov. Janet Mills is) over 70 and she’s out there leading the charge.”

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