Caribou hospital and nursing home take precautions in light of coronavirus

As of 1 p.m. Friday, March 13, test results show that two Maine residents have tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. 

CARIBOU, Maine — With two Maine residents testing positive for coronavirus as of Friday morning, facilities in Caribou are taking precautions to ensure the safety of patients, employees and visitors.

Cary Medical Center has asked that any patients exhibiting respiratory or flu-like symptoms call the hospital at 207-498-3111 before visiting to ensure that both the coronavirus and flu do not spread. 

Dr. Regen Gallagher, chief medical officer at Cary Medical Center, said the hospital has been doing prep work in relation to COVID-19 since January, and that these efforts have significantly ramped up in the past couple of weeks.

The hospital is taking a phased response in terms of restricting visitors. Guests are not completely banned, but signage at the facility asks sick visitors to stay home.

“It’s better not to visit patients if you’re already sick,” said Dr. Gallagher. “We have signs at the hospital but we’re not locked down at the moment.”

Cary is collaborating with Pines Health Service to develop a location for County residents to receive a screening in the near future. Gallagher said the screenings would free up resources in the emergency room, and added that Cary and Pines are not prepared to release additional details regarding the location of these screenings yet.

So far, she said the hospital has not seen a large number of patients coming in and requesting a screening, and that while some have been under investigation, none have tested positive for the virus as of Friday afternoon.

Those concerned about catching the virus are being asked to wash their hands, avoid going out when sick, and not attending large gatherings.

“It really boils down to social distancing at this point,” said Gallagher. “You should only be wearing a mask if you have a cough or a cold. If you’re coughing and you need to go out, then a mask is incredibly helpful as you move about in the community, but really you should just stay home if you can.”

On social media, the hospital also advised that, since there are many vulnerable residents on a fixed-income in Aroostook County, local residents avoid stockpiling basic goods and supplies to ensure that those in need do not go without necessities.

The Caribou Rehab and Nursing Center also completely restricted any visitors on Thursday afternoon until further notice, administrator Phil Cyr said.

“We’ve restricted our employees to enter only through one doorway, where they are screened for possible coronavirus symptoms as well as travel history and things of that nature,” he said. “We’re making sure to screen all of our employees carefully before they come into work.”

The nursing home has also instructed any deliveries to be dropped off at the front door, where staff can retrieve them outside, preventing any unscreened individuals from entering. 

“Visitations are 100 percent restricted,” said Cyr. “If we have someone in an end of life situation then obviously we will make allowances for the family to be with someone who has just a few days left to live.”

The Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou has also placed a ban on visitors except during end-of-life situations, along with all other veteran facilities under the VA within the state.

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