PORTLAND — With three COVID-19 outbreaks at city facilities, city officials have been working with the Maine Center for Disease Control to make sure proper protocols and contingency plans are followed and contact tracing performed.

The outbreaks have occurred at the Barron Center, the Oxford Street Shelter and the Family Shelter. The Maine CDC considers an outbreak to be three or more positive cases at one site within a 14-day period.

Plans in the works to use the Portland Expo as a public vaccination site. File photo

The outbreak  at the Barron Center opened Nov. 21 and remains open.  To date, the Barron Center, which provides nursing and rehabilitation services to people in need, has had  71 cases among residents and 30 among staff.  Twelve deaths at the Barron Center have been associated with the virus. City Communications Director Jessica Grondin said “most of those were related to other conditions that folks had” and in some cases, involved individuals who were in hospice care.

Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long said Feb. 2 that the investigation into the outbreak at the Oxford Shelter for the homeless opened Jan. 26 and to date involves 16 cases, five of those among staff. The investigation at the Family Shelter opened Jan. 7 and includes 6 staff members and seven clients.

Slightly more than 3,300 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the city since the pandemic begin last March. As of Tuesday, there have been nearly 11,330 cumulative cases in Cumberland County and 39,960 in the state.

Mayor Kate Snyder reminded people to continue to be vigilant in protecting themselves and others from contracting the virus.

“This is not the time to let up on your prevention efforts,” Snyder said in a recent release. “While we realize people may be getting tired of adhering to these precautions, help is on the horizon with the emergence of vaccines.”

The Barron Center has had two vaccine clinics for staff and residents so far, and plans are underway to administer vaccines to shelter guests as soon as those individuals are eligible, the city said. The city is also working with state health officials on plans to vaccinate city employees, and the James Banks Sr. Exposition building could soon be used as a public vaccination site.

In the meantime, Snyder said, “in an effort to reduce the number of positive cases and prevent future deaths, the best way to stop community transmission is to wear your mask, wash your hands, and stay physically distant. And when you become eligible, I do hope you’ll get vaccinated.”

City Manager Jon Jennings said “the current conditions of COVID-19 are impacting our city and staff in great ways, and we’re doing everything we can to manage staff who have been affected by the recent surge in the virus.”

Other staff members are taking on additional responsibilities because of the impact on operations, Jennings said.

“Many have been working around the clock as issues arise and contingency plans must be activated,” Jennings said. “My top priority is for the safety of the residents of this city and our city staff. I’m proud of the work our staff has done for almost a year now in trying to combat the virus.”

The city’s public health campaign, StaytheCourse.me, which contains educational information about slowing the spread of the virus, has been updated with information about vaccinations.

For more information about vaccination sites, visit maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites. To learn more about the state’s vaccination efforts, visit maine.gov/covid19/vaccines.


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