The virus is spreading through Houlton. What can you do to protect yourself?
HOULTON, Maine — Though Houlton has been much more protected from COVID-19 since the pandemic began back in March, the last few weeks have shown that the area is certainly not immune to the spread of the virus.
Owing at first to the rural location far from major cities, then the warmer summer months which made staying outdoors and social distancing more possible, the Houlton area was largely devoid of positive cases of the virus, save for a small breakout in June of nine cases that included four ambulance workers.
Now, with the arrival of winter weather that is keeping people indoors and with the uncontrolled spread of the virus throughout the United States, the number of cases appearing in Houlton has spiked dramatically.
As of Dec. 9, the Maine CDC reported that the most recent numbers of the ZIP Code area that includes Houlton, along with surrounding towns such as Hodgdon and Linneus, has had 45 total reported cases of the virus. Surrounding towns such as New Limerick and Oakfield have also reported between six and 19 total cases. Houlton Regional Hospital confirmed the first death of a patient as a result of COVID-19.
With the new rise in cases, many Houlton residents may be left wondering how they can protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus, especially during the long-lasting Aroostook winter.
Ellen Bartlett, the infection preventionist at Houlton Regional Hospital, said that keeping stocked up on essential supplies at home is key to helping maintain social distancing and preventing people from having to leave their households for more than two weeks at a time.
“Having certain items on hand at home will be very beneficial if you or someone in your family becomes ill or if you are unexpectedly advised to isolate or quarantine,” said Bartlett. “Each time you shop, try to buy a little extra amount of essential supplies to make it so you could be able to get by at least a week but preferable two weeks if you had to, without having to go out.”
Thermometers, extra masks and cleaning supplies are some of the items most people know to stock up on, but Bartlett also recommends items such as flashlights and a battery-powered portable radio, in the event of power outages, which have already occurred this season in Houlton.
Medicines used in treating coughs and fevers, as well as medications such as Imodium, which help against diarrhea. Drinks containing electrolytes, such as Pedialyte and various sports drinks, may also be helpful, Bartlett said.
“It’s intended for children or adults to replenish electrolytes during a bout of diarrhea or vomiting,” she said. “There are also homemade electrolyte replacement recipes. Please be mindful as some products may have a high sugar content.”