Covid-19 Outbreaks Close to Home

As has been extensively reported in national and statewide media, the Sanford area is dealing with multiple cases of Covid-19 in two outbreaks. One outbreak, at the Sanford Fire Department, includes four confirmed cases of the virus, with three among staff members and one related case. An outbreak at the York County Jail, just over the town line in Alfred, includes 18 cases among inmates, jail staff and other York County employees.

The Jail outbreak is related to the outbreak of 62 cases that stem from a wedding held in Millinocket on August 7. A jail employee attended the wedding, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, head of Maine CDC. Although the CDC initially considered the York County Jail cases to be a separate outbreak, as of Thursday, August 27 they have revised that, and now considered those cases to be part of the larger Millinocket outbreak.

Another connection to the Millinocket wedding outbreak came to light on Tuesday when it was revealed that Pastor Todd Bell of the Calvary Baptist Church on High St. officiated at the ceremony.

City officials and a Fire Fighters’ Association spokesman expressed anger and frustration at the length of time it took for tests on Fire Department personnel to come back from the Maine CDC’s lab in Augusta. The tests were taken on Thursday and Friday, but some results were not available until Monday. Dr. Shah stated that the reason for the delay was a huge increase in the number of tests submitted the same day, compared to usual.

At his Tuesday briefing, Dr. Shah pointed out that the delay in receiving the results should have made no difference, because all those who had close contact with a confirmed case should be quarantining for 14 days, whether their own tests came back positive or not. Reportedly, only Sanford firefighters who have tested positive are quarantining, and those who tested negative are not.

City Manager Steven Buck said on Tuesday that all Fire Department tests would be processed by Southern Maine Health Care going forward, as they could provide a much quicker turnaround time. Fire Department staff who came into contact with the confirmed cases will be retested every seven days until there are no more positives.

The positive cases among the Fire Department may have repercussions for other local Fire Departments as well. Some of those who tested positive are also employed by departments in Saco and Buxton. Contact tracing and testing are being undertaken there.

Dr. Shah said the CDC’s investigation is ongoing, but that no confirmed link between the Millinocket wedding and the Sanford Fire Department outbreaks has yet been found.

As of August 23, the CDC is reporting 45 total cumulative Covid-19 cases for our community, with 37 in Sanford and 8 in Springvale, an increase of 9 cases since last week. This is the first increase in case numbers in over a month.