AUGUSTA — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) and Maine Emergency Medical Services (Maine EMS) are investigating an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 among first responders in York County.
At present, there are at least four recent, confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving firefighters and/or EMS clinicians.
In addition, several other individuals have been placed in quarantine following exposures to first responders affected by COVID-19.
At this time, Maine CDC has not determined the origin of these cases, although an epidemiological investigation is underway.
Three of the cases are associated with the Sanford Fire Department. Maine CDC has opened an outbreak investigation related to those cases.
The first positive test associated with a Sanford Fire Department employee was reported Thursday. Maine CDC has offered testing to all affected individuals, which began Thursday, and close contacts of confirmed cases are being notified.
Over the weekend, Maine CDC learned that one of the affected Sanford Fire Department members and another first responder who had tested positive also recently worked with the Buxton Fire Department.
On Saturday, testing was arranged for all Buxton Fire Department employees, their families, and others who were potentially exposed to the virus.
Additionally, because one of the confirmed cases had interacted with members of the Saco Fire Department, Maine CDC and Maine EMS are today arranging testing for all Saco Fire Department members and other individuals who might have had contact with that person.
Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to the virus and/or who has symptoms of COVID-19 should call their health care provider before seeking medical care. COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, or body aches among many others. A comprehensive list of symptoms can be found here.
Individuals who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or who otherwise do not feel well should not go to work. Except in very limited circumstances, a negative COVID-19 test result does not override the quarantine requirement for those who have had close contact with confirmed cases.
Maine CDC and Maine EMS on Sunday sent an alert to all fire chiefs and EMS directors in Maine to reaffirm support for first responders, including access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing.
Maine CDC has prioritized, per the release, first responders for PPE since the beginning of the pandemic and offers universal testing for first responders in the event of a single case.
The alert also reviewed COVID-19 safety protocols and precautions when interacting with patients and when interacting with each other between emergency responses.
To help mitigate the spread within stations and EMS barracks, Maine CDC and Maine EMS continue to recommend the use of face coverings or masks while in the stations between emergency calls.
If you have had recent, close contact with a member of the Sanford, Buxton, or Saco Fire Departments and you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your health care provider to determine whether you should be tested.
Maine CDC and Maine EMS continue to express gratitude to all first responders for their heroic work during this extended pandemic.
Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC, will provide an update on the situation during the next scheduled media briefing Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m.