MADISON — Samantha Paine hasn’t hugged her family since March.

“I’m scared, angry, heartbroken and confused,” she said. “The confinement is lonely.”

Paine, 48, a resident at the nursing home that’s experiencing a deadly COVID-19 outbreak, has been living at Maplecrest rehab & nursing home for five years. She has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, so severe she cannot take care of herself on her own and requires around-the-clock care.

Samantha Paine, a patient at the Maplecrest nursing home in Madison, is seen with her dog Patrick. Photo courtesy of Samantha Paine

One general consensus, Paine says, is common around the hallways of the 58-bed nursing home in Somerset County: nobody thought the virus would ever end up the cause of such destruction here in Madison.

Since Aug. 19, there have been at least 39 cases and six deaths at Maplecrest. The outbreak has been linked by state health officials to a now-infamous Aug. 7 wedding in Millinocket, where crowd restrictions were ignored and masks were not required. To date, the wedding has directly or indirectly led to at least 177 cases and eight deaths, becoming a so-called super-spreader event amid the pandemic.

None of those who died at Maplecrest were attendees of the Aug. 7 wedding, but rather an adult wedding guest later came into contact with someone who then came into contact with a staff member at the nursing home.

North Country Associates, the company that oversees Maplecrest, has not responded to repeated inquiries by the Morning Sentinel over the past month seeking comment on the situation there and to respond to the concerns raised by patients and their families.

Paine said she hopes that the facility administration can be more transparent about what’s going on.

“Start being honest,” she said. “My family deserves that.”

Paine said that when news of the pandemic started being reported in March, she did not feel nervous or scared, but after hearing from her sister who lives in Washington, a state that was had a hot-spot of cases, her thoughts changed. Restrictions on visitors and volunteers began to happen in March and continued to get stricter throughout the summer.

“I thought, ‘That was Washington and this is Madison. There is no way,'” Paine said. “Who would think it would come here? This is Madison, not Portland. Most people travel the same routes and go to the same stores; routines don’t change that much. I thought if it was going to hit here, it would have before now.”

Last month, Maplecrest announced through a Facebook post that the nursing home had stopped permitting visitors at the rehabilitation and living center after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

At the time of the Facebook post, a spokesperson for the nursing home said that the center, at 174 Main St., was working with local authorities and health officials to stop the spread of the virus in the facility. Prior to this, a spokesperson said that the only in-facility visits allowed during the pandemic had been mainly for patients on hospice.

In July, Paine said, in-person visits were allowed, but only outside on the patio where social distancing was required and only one-30-minute visit was allowed each week. Paine’s parents and relatives live in the area.

“I haven’t seen my beloved dog since March, I haven’t hugged my family since March. Then we couldn’t leave the building unless it was a medical emergency. I haven’t been to my mom’s, where we have monthly dinners. I haven’t been able to scoot around town,” Paine said.

Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported Tuesday that there have been 39 cases of COVID-19 at Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, seen last month. In addition, there have been six deaths attributed in part to the virus. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

Casey Chute, a relative of another patient at Maplecrest, says her concerns are the emotional toll that this outbreak is taking on the patients at the facility.

“My (relative) is in the same wing as COVID patients, staff are moving from room-to-room and I just don’t see how that is in any way safe. It’s a recipe for disaster,” Chute said.

Chute said that the facility is restricting/isolating patients by closing the door to all bedrooms. She added that she spoke with CDC representatives that confirmed this.

“I’m terrified that (my relative) has this level of exposure,” Chute said. “I don’t think that anybody should have to live or work in these conditions. It has been allowed to spiral out of control and I don’t know that they have a clear plan on how to get this under control.”

Paine says that she likes Maplecrest due to its location, which is in close proximity to her family, the library, the grocery store and her bank. She had prior stints at Cedar Ridge in Skowhegan and Somerset Rehabilitation/Living in Bingham, but found her place at Maplecrest, where she found a close-knit community between staff and other residents. Paine shares a room with another patient at the facility, and the two have lived together for about two years.

“Like every place, there are a few bad apples, but overall, this is a loving, caring, tight-knit community,” Paine said. “My first meal here, I became fast friends with a tiny spitfire of a lady. That set the tone for me, making friends with everyone.”

Paine says she knew two of the six patients who have died — a man in his 70s, the first recorded death at the facility, and another a friend a few doors down the hall.

“One of our friends in the wing died. They couldn’t tell us, but her door was suddenly closed and people stopped going in,” Paine said. “Both my roommate and I are crushed. She visited often. The man was gentle and caring; he always asked if people needed things. The woman lived to joke and be sarcastic.”

The Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has advised nursing homes that have active cases of COVID-19 outbreak to create their own units separate from non-infected residents and to have designated workers that have been infected or exposed to the virus to only work with those patients.

Last week, Maplecrest representatives told Maine CDC that it is now separating residents with proper physical barriers and designating workers to assist them, according to Dr. Nirav Shah.

“I worry about it every single day and night,” Chute said. “If (they) make it out of this OK, I’m going to be thankful. It just seems really likely that (my relative) could end up with COVID, and they’re just not doing enough.”

“I think that Maplecrest and the Maine CDC need to make a plan to manage this. I’ve seen very little evidence that they’re trying to contain this. I’d like to know if there’s a plan to contain the outbreak and to protect the people that live there and to protect the staff,” Chute said.

Taking her relative out of the facility and either relocating them to another or taking care of that home is also not an option, Chute says, as her relative requires 24-hour care that Chute and her family are unable to provide.

Family and friends show support to their loved ones Friday during a parade at Maplecrest Rehabilitation & Living Center in Madison. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

On Friday afternoon, members of the community gathered on Heald Street just behind Maplecrest with vehicles decorated for a parade that went around the building. Media was not allowed on the property during the parade.

At this parade, Wanda Kranz, who was a full-time volunteer at Maplecrest before COVID-19 protocols went into place in March, said that she has missed the residents and was close to one of the six patients who died, saying that she was “like a sister” to her.

“I was devastated to find out afterwards that I couldn’t be there at the end,” Kranz said.

For Paine, her hope is that conditions around the facility change and that she can leave her room again. “I thought it would last a month, maybe two, but never this long,” she said. “We never thought it would happen here. But it took just one person not wearing a mask correctly; now look where we are.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.