The Star-Herald

As COVID-19 cases rise in Maine, A.R. Gould limits testing and visitors

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Maine rising by the day, Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle has announced more stringent priorities on virus testing and new visitor restrictions. 

The hospital is instituting the new measures as it ramps up efforts to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

Hospital staff said Thursday, March 26, that they will follow Maine CDC guidelines on testing, which would mean prioritizing high-risk individuals due to a limited supply of “laboratory materials” nationwide. 

Only individuals with a fever or respiratory symptoms will be in the prioritized category. Those patients must also have an attribute that puts them at risk of acquiring the disease, including currently being hospitalized, being a healthcare worker/first responder or living in a congregate setting (assisted living home, jail, shelter, group home, etc.).

In an announcement on Wednesday, March 25, the hospital said it will implement new visitor restrictions at both its Presque Isle location and Northern Light Continuing Care in Mars Hill.

All visitors must be 18 or older without any upper respiratory symptoms, including a fever, cough, muscle pains or nasal congestion. Visitors will be screened by the hospital upon entry and must remain in the patient’s room for the entirety of the visit.

End-of-life patients are allowed two visitors, while those in obstetrics (primarily related to childbirth) can only have one partner or “birth support person” for the entirety of their stay. In the pediatric department, one parent or guardian is allowed to visit patients under the age of 18.

No visitors will be allowed in the patient area of the emergency department, other than one parent/guardian of a minor or one person if a patient needs assistance with “mobility, support or communication.” Two people per patient are allowed in the waiting room of that department. 

For those undergoing surgery or a procedure, one visitor is allowed, but they are required to leave the hospital after the procedure finishes. 

For inpatient adults, one visitor is allowed per day for “limited visitation.” That one visitor must be the only visitor for the entirety of the patient’s stay. 

Visiting hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those visiting patients who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are required to wear a mask. Additionally, the hospital said that while chaplains are not making “regular” patient visits at the moment, they will take requests on a case-by-case basis.

New CDC guidelines also affect who should seek out medical help if they feel they have COVID-19 symptoms. In a March 21 Facebook post, the hospital recommended those who are sick to attempt to better themselves in their homes instead of at the hospital. 

The hospital said this is one of several “important steps” people can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19, along with social distancing, hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes with elbows. 

“Stay home, drink plenty of fluids, and rest,” the hospital said. “Call your provider with worsening symptoms.”

There have been 3,394 negative tests for the virus from throughout Maine as of 11 a.m. on March 26, when the Maine CDC reported 155 coronavirus cases in 11 counties.

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